Category Archives: WAC

A Lesson in Superconferences: How Can the WAC Survive?

Over the last 24 months, conference realignment has reshaped the landscape of collegiate athletics.  The constant flux of teams switching conferences, along with conferences working  to amass the greatest number of member institutions leads one to question whether superconferences are all they’re cracked up to be.

The apparent victim in the most recent round of conference realignment is the WAC.  Reports indicate that WAC members Utah State and San Jose State are set to leave the conference for the Mountain West Conference in 2013.  Additionally, UT-San Antonio, which was set to join the WAC this season is expected to break with those intentions and join Conference USA.  With Utah State and San Jose State leaving for the Mountain West and UT-San Antonio not joining the conference, the WAC is left with only four football-playing schools. 

In response to these reports, WAC interim commissioner Jeff Hurd asserted that the conference will remain viable and the conference is evaluating different options to address its defecting members.  In considering options, should the WAC seek out numerous new members with the goal of becoming a super conference, or rather, should it rebrand itself as a conference focused on a specific sport?  

Founded in 1962, the WAC initially was the conference of six members:  Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.  The creation of the wake resulted in the demise of Border and Skyline conferences.  While Arizona and Arizona State experienced competitive success as WAC members, they eventually left the conference to join what would become the Pac-12.  However, by 1980, the WAC had increased its membership by 50 percent, adding UTEP, Colorado State, San Diego State, Hawaii and Air Force.  The expanse covered by the WAC was growing as the conference’s membership grew.

In 1996, the WAC achieved the ranks of superconference status when its membership totaled 16 schools.  Along with its previous 9 members from 1980, the WAC added:  Fresno State, Rice, TCU, SMU, San Jose State, UNLV and Tulsa.  Started as a conference limited to a specific geographical region, the conference now had schools in four time zones and stretched across 3,900 miles.

While the saying “bigger is better” may be true for most things, it was not so for the WAC.  With schools located across 3,900 miles, travel expenses skyrocketed for member institutions.  Additionally, reports indicate that some members were concerned that the original academic and athletic focus of the conference was lost in expansion.  The consequences of superconference expansion were felt in 1999, when three of the remaining four original members, along with three WAC newcomers left the conference to form the Mountain West Conference.

The lesson here, is an important one to the WAC (and other conferences, for that matter), when it comes to drafting plans to move forward as a conference under the current landscape of collegiate athletics.  While in recent months, there have been vigilant efforts by conferences to organize coups of other conference’s members, superconference status does not always guarantee success. 

Rather, conferences should be concerned first and foremost with drafting a long-term vision for their conference.  Will the conference achieve success by fielding football teams, or will it find steadiness in focusing upon other sports?  Would the conference be better suited if its members were located in one region of the country or would it be more financially responsible for the conference to be spread out across all corners of the nation?  In seeking out members, is it important to the conference that institutions represent academic integrity and success?

Ultimately, when you look at the most successful conferences of past decade, there is a cohesiveness about them that the WAC was lacking.  The “Big Six” are tied together by geography, success in either football or basketball and institutions that for the large part, promote academic excellence.  In moving forward, any conference on the verge of death, should spend considerable time fleshing out what the conference’s new keystones will be before arbitrarily inviting institutions to become new members.

Conference Recruitment Expense Series: WAC

The final conference to be evaluated in’s Conference Recruitment Expense Series is the WAC.  In the near future,  the WAC will expand to add new members.  What sort of recruiting budgets will these new members have to adopt to be competitive in the WAC?

Recruitment expense data from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt conferences have been posted.  On Monday, a spreadsheet listing the top-50 spenders in terms of recruiting will be listed, sorted by total recruitment expense budget, amount spent per team on average and amount spent per player on average.

The data was obtained from the Department of Education.  Although this data is not perfect, it is the only data available for both public and private institutions.  Furthermore, the data provided is for the 2010-11 school year.  Additionally, it should be noted that the “Amount Per Player” column was calculated using the total amount of student-athletes at a given school.  The Department of Education data does not disclose how many student-athletes a school recruited in a given year.  Thus, using the data alone, it is impossible to calculate how much it cost a school to recruit a specific class.

Schools Men’s Sports Recruitment Expenses Average Per Team Average Per Player
Fresno State $183,423.00 $30,570.50 $857.12
Hawaii $348,783.00 $49,826.14 $1,509.88
Idaho $245,717.00 $49,143.40 $1,328.20
Louisiana Tech $218,907.00 $43,781.40 $1,209.43
Nevada $199,185.00 $39,837.00 $1,021.46
New Mexico State $293,298.00 $48,883.00 $1,451.97
San Jose State $219,655.00 $36,609.17 $950.89
Utah State $405,695.00 $81,139.00 $2,018.38


Schools Women’s Sports Recruitment Expenses Average Per Team Average Per Player
Fresno State $102,951.00 $10,295.10 $441.85
Hawaii $213,697.00 $21,369.70 $800.36
Idaho $121,353.00 $17,336.14 $926.36
Louisiana Tech $83,028.00 $11,861.14 $734.76
Nevada $107,479.00 $13,434.88 $411.80
New Mexico State $118,607.00 $13,178.56 $590.08
San Jose State $78,733.00 $7,873.30 $399.66
Utah State $161,520.00 $23,074.29 $928.28

The WAC school which spent the highest amount on recruiting for its men’s sports programs was Utah State, which spent $405,695.00 in 2010-11.  Not far behind, was Hawaii, which spent $348,783.00.  Arguably, a bulk of Hawaii’s expenses was allocated toward travel expenses.

Hawaii led the way in recruitment expenses for its women’s sports teams in 2010-11.  Hawaii spent $213,697.00 on recruiting for its women’s sports teams in 2010-11.

Be sure to visit on Monday to see a list of the top-50 recruitment expense spenders!

WAC Financials ’10-’11

The next conference we’re looking at is the Western Athletic Conference. The ACCBig XIIBig EastC-USABig TenMACPac-12SEC and Mountain West have been previously posted. The chart is sorted by ’10-11 profits for each football and basketball program from greatest profit to least. The “% Invested” column shows how much of the specific sport’s revenue goes back into that specific sport. Please read below before viewing the financials.

About the data: All of the data is from reports each school files with the US Department of Education. It is the only available data for both public and private universities. However, there can be variances in how each school chooses to report data. For example, each school can decide for itself whether to break out television revenue by sport or leave it in a generic revenue category, which causes variances. After speaking with dozens of schools the most common practice appears to be attributing the majority of television revenue to football and a portion to basketball. The most common split is 65/35.

There are also variances from year-to-year, so be careful when comparing this data to last year’s data. For example, Florida State’s football program showed a gain of approximately $14 million from ’09-’10 to ’10-’11. When contacted for comment FSU explained that in ’10-’11 they broke out contributions by sport, which they hadn’t done previously.

Although far from perfect, this data is the only available data for all Division I programs (with the exception of the military academies). We just want to make you aware of the possible variances and will let you draw your own conclusions.

How Conference Realignment Could Impact the BCS

The Big 12 has been in danger of extinction for more than a year, and now the Big East has been added to the Most Endangered list with strong rumors that Pitt and Syracuse are joining the ACC.

Both are automatic-qualifying conferences, which means they get an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game (Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or Rose Bowl). But what happens if one of those conferences folds? Or perhaps one is forced to add several schools to remain viable?

Current AQ conferences were determined based on data from the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 football seasons. That data will be reevaluated following the 2011 season based on the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. Perfect timing for conference realignment.

Three sets of data are considered: rank of the highest-ranked team in the conference, rank of all conference teams and number of teams in the top 25.

Here’s how it all played out last time:

1. Average rank of highest-ranked team in BCS Standings
1. Pac-12……………………………………3.5
2. Southeastern…………………………..3.5
3. Big Ten……………………………………4.25
4. Big 12……………………………………..4.5
5. Atlantic Coast…………………………..8.25
6. Big East…………………………………..9.0
7. Mountain West……………………….14.25
8. Western Athletic……………………..16.75
9. Conference USA………………………40.975
10. Mid-American…………………………55.25
11. Sun Belt………………………………..68.625

2. Average conference ranking (ranking of all teams in the conference by the six computers)
1. Pac-12…………………………………….40.17
2. Southeastern…………………………..40.65
3. Big 12…………………………………….42.38
4. Atlantic Coast………………………….42.47
5. Big Ten…………………………………..42.65
6. Big East………………………………….46.76
7. Mountain West…………………………67.46
8. Western Athletic……………………….76.36
9. Conference USA………………………..81.41
10. Mid-American………………………….89.82
11. Sun Belt…………………………………93.52

3. Adjusted Top 25 performance ranking (number of teams in top 25 of BCS standings, as a percentage of the top conference)
1. Southeastern…………………………….100.00%
2. Big Ten……………………………………..78.35%
3. Pac-12………………………………………66.29%
4. Big 12……………………………………….64.29%
5. Atlantic Coast…………………………….57.14%
6. Big East…………………………………….49.11%
7. Western Athletic…………………………22.32%
8. Mountain West…………………………..20.09%
9. Conference USA……………………………0.00%
10. Mid-American………………………………0.00%
11. Sun Belt……………………………………..0.00%

There is a threshold for annual qualification that requires the conference be in the top six in the first two sets of data and in the top 50% in the third set of data. However, a team can obtain a waiver from the Presidential Oversight Committee if they are in the top six in the first two sets of data, or top five in one and top seven in the other, and top 33% of the third set.

In light of this, it’s important conferences take on-the-field performance into account when making realignment decisions. This doesn’t mean that’s enough to get you into an AQ conference (I’m talking to you, Boise State), but it does have to be considered. If the Mountain West still had Utah, TCU and BYU, along with the Boise State addition, the Big 12’s AQ status could be in serious danger depending on who they chose to add.

Fortunately for the Big 12, I don’t think there’s a non-AQ who could surpass them at this point, even with the losses. However, I do think it means if the Big East or Big 12 folds there would be an AQ opening for the taking.

Which Is More Important: Booster Contributions or NCAA and Conference Distributions?

It’s a “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” type question – which propels a school to success: booster support or a top revenue generating conference? Obviously both are important, but which do top-ranked football programs rely upon more?

I recently ran across this article by Michael Lewis of the Salt Lake Tribune where he discusses how crucial it is for Utah to start bringing in contributions that rival those received by other Pac-12 institutions. Utah had its best fundraising year ever last year, raising $5.2 million. However, it’ll need to raise over twice that just to be at the league average of $11 million in the Pac-12. To match the leader in contributions in the Pac-12, USC, Utah will need to raise around $27 million.

I took a look at the financial statements I have for schools and found a familiar trend amongst those who’ve had football success in recent years. The majority receive more in contributions than in conference distributions. So which is more important? Contributions or conference distributions? Does being in a top conference bring you more contributions? Do higher levels of contributions increase your chance of getting into an AQ conference if you’re in a non-AQ conference?

Let’s take a look at last year’s BCS Top 25 and see which schools relied upon more, contributions or conference distributions:

  School Contributions NCAA/Conference Distributions Difference
1 Auburn $29,731,122.00 $19,646,038.00 $10,085,084.00
2 Oregon $73,809,775.00 $12,756,603.00 $61,053,172.00
3 TCU*      
4 Stanford*      
5 Wisconsin $19,247,563.00 $21,521,927.00 ($2,274,364.00)
6 Ohio State $27,327,347.00 $23,943,397.00 $3,383,950.00
7 Oklahoma $26,601,241.00 $13,548,733.00 $13,052,508.00
8 Arkansas $13,124,745.00 $20,556,381.00 ($7,431,636.00)
9 Michigan State $21,292,589.00 $22,578,159.00 ($1,285,570.00)
10 Boise State $6,553,812.00 $6,242,864.00 $310,948.00
11 LSU $38,255,521.00 $19,883,259.00 $18,372,262.00
12 Missouri $13,454,020.00 $10,681,242.00 $2,772,778.00
13 Virginia Tech $16,138,765.00 $12,081,194.00 $4,057,571.00
14 Oklahoma State $51,877,388.00 $12,570,471.00 $39,306,917.00
15 Nevada $4,686,526.00 $2,368,894.00 $2,317,632.00
16 Alabama $33,739,056.00 $21,288,565.00 $12,450,491.00
17 Texas A&M $20,512,889.00 $11,900,472.00 $8,612,417.00
18 Nebraksa $6,103,706.00 $10,978,295.00 ($4,874,589.00)
19 Utah $5,750,835.00 $4,175,348.00 $1,575,487.00
20 South Carolina $23,987,283.00 $19,549,286.00 $4,437,997.00
21 Mississippi State $0.00 $18,234,538.00 ($18,234,538.00)
22 West Virginia  $15,729,528.00 $10,416,908.00 $5,312,620.00
23 Florida State $23,245,513.00 $13,323,332.00 $9,922,181.00
24 Hawaii $13,323,332.00 $2,284,893.00 $11,038,439.00
25 UCF $5,308,200.00 $3,337,076.00 $1,971,124.00

A couple of things to note. First, TCU and Stanford’s numbers are unavailable because they are private institutions. Second, Mississippi State shows no contributions because they chose not to take a distribution from their booster club in fiscal year 2010. Not all schools separate out NCAA and conference distributions, so they are tabulated here together.

As you can see, most of the schools on this list take in significantly more in contributions than in NCAA and conference distributions, regardless of conference affiliation.

Are boosters more important than television contracts or BCS and March Madness appearances? How does a school increase the contribution levels of its alumni to stay competitive?

BCS Payouts vs. March Madness Payouts

Quite frequently in the debate over the BCS there are comparisons to March Madness. Proponents of moving to a playoff system point to the approximately $771 million a year (beginning in 2011) March Madness generates in television alone (previously an average of $545 million). Meanwhile, the BCS bowls will generate just $125 million beginning in 2011 (previously$96.4 million per year ).

While it’s true March Madness generates more television revenue overall, that doesn’t necessarily mean more money for each athletic department. A total of $452,200,000 was distributed by the NCAA in 2010-2011, and less than half of all monies distributed went back into the athletic department with no strings attached (via the Basketball Fund). Here’s the breakdown:

Basketball Fund ($180,467,000): Monies are distributed based on a six-year rolling period. Institutions receive one unit for each appearance, not including the championship game. Each unit was worth $239,664 in 2010-2011.

Academic Enhancement ($22,461,000): Each Division I institution gets $66,000 to use for academic support service for student-athletes.

Conference Grants ($8,115,000): Each conference receives $261,744 less an agreed upon amount remitted to the regional officiating advisors program. Funds must be used to improve officiating, enhance conference compliance and enforcement programs, drug abuse education, enhancement of opportunities for ethnic minorities, and development of gambling education programs.

Sports Sponsorship Fund ($60,155,000): Each school’s share is determined based on the number of varsity sports sponsored. Points begin with the 14th sport (the number required in Division I), and $30,091 is distributed for each sport above thirteen. These monies may be directed to individual institutions or to the conference for distribution, as decided upon by each conference.

Grants-In-Aid Fund ($120,309,000): Each school’s share is determined based on the number of grants-in-aid awarded. These monies may be directed to individual institutions or to the conference for distribution, as decided upon by each conference.

Student Assistance Fund ($59,738,000): This fund also consists of the Special Assistance Fund and the Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund. For the Student Assistance Fund, all athletes are eligible to receive these funds, even if they have exhausted eligibility or no longer participate due to medical reasons. These monies are distributed to the conference who decides how to allocate. This fund is to be used to assist student-athletes with financial needs that “arise in conjunction with participation in intercollegiate athletics, enrollment in an academic curriculum or that recognize academic achievement. The Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund is distributed by conferences based on the formula used for sports sponsorship and grants-in-aid. The Special Assistance Fund is to be used to meet student-athlete financial needs of an emergency or essential nature for which other financial aid is not available.

Supplemental Support Fund ($955,000): Used to support campus-based initiatives designed to foster student-athlete academic success at eligible limited resource institutions.

At the end of the day, most conferences receive larger payouts from the BCS than March Madness when it comes to money going back into the athletic department with no strings attached. Below is a look at the payouts for the past four years. Totals in red reflect conferences who received a larger payout from basketball than football for the given year. You should also note the football payouts indicated for the non-AQ conferences (Mountain West, Mid-American, Sun Belt, C-USA and Western Athletic) are based on the payout from the BCS before the agreement between the conferences to split BCS money equally between all non-AQ conferences kicks in. Also, these numbers do not include payouts for non-BCS bowl games.

ACC 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $18,324,992 $18,672,725 $19,787,058
Basketball $14,149,120 $15,090,053 $15,863,538 $18,220,902
Difference  $3,939,555 $3,234,939 $2,809,187 $1,566,156
Big 10 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $22,588,675 $22,824,992 $23,172,725 $24,287,058
Basketball $13,087,936 $13,561,946 $13,803,338 $15,332,222
Difference $9,500,739 $9,263,046 $9,369,387 $8,954,836
Big 12 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $22,824,992 $23,172,725 $19,787,058
Basketball $14,325,984 $15,663,093 $16,275,578 $17,109,871
Difference $3,762,691 $7,161,899 $6,897,147 $2,677,187
Big East 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $18,324,992 $18,672,725 $19,787,058
Basketball $14,856,576 $16,618,160 $19,365,880 $23,109,436
Difference $3,232,099 $1,706,832 ($693,155) ($3,322,378)
Pac 10 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $18,324,992 $18,672,743 $19,787,058
Basketball $11,849,888 $12,606,880 $13,391,298 $14,665,604
Difference $6,238,787 $5,718,112 $5,281,445 $5,121,454
SEC 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $22,588,675 $22,824,992 $23,172,725 $24,287,058
Basketball $13,087,936 $14,708,026 $15,657,518 $15,110,015
Difference $9,500,739 $8,116,966 $7,515,207 $9,177,043
Mountain West 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $3,529,600 $3,724,000 $9,788,800 $9,878,710
Basketball $3,183,552 $4,011,280 $4,120,399 $3,999,710
Difference $346,048 ($287,280) $5,668,401 $5,879,000
Mid-American 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $1,964,800 $1,508,000 $2,094,400 $2,139,355
Basketball $1,945,504 $1,910,133 $1,442,140 $1,333,237
Difference $19,296 ($402,133) $652,260 $806,118
Sun Belt 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $1,443,200 $2,062,000 $1,529,600 $1,559,570
Basketball $1,061,184 $1,146,080 $1,854,180 $2,222,061
Difference $382,016 $915,920 ($324,580) ($662,491)
C-USA 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $2,486,400 $2,616,000 $2,659,200 $2,719,140
Basketball $7,782,016 $8,213,573 $9,064,879 $8,507,523
Difference ($5,295,616) ($5,597,573) ($6,405,679) ($5,788,383)
Western Athletic 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $9,008,000 $9,170,000 $3,224,000 $7,798,925
Basketball $3,006,688 $3,247,227 $3,090,300 $3,110,886
Difference $6,001,312 $5,922,773 $133,700 $4,688,039

I think it’s interesting to note that AQ football conferences are bringing in more from March Madness than non-AQ football conferences. Some of that has to do with the smaller size of some of the non-AQ conferences, but it’s still rather sizeable disparity. Nonetheless, I imagine people still find the March Madness system more digestible because it is a playoff system and because payouts are based on number of appearances.

Special thanks to my research assistant Eric Heckman for helping me compile the data.

Why Isn’t Return of Bowl/TV Money a Penalty for NCAA Infractions?

UPDATE: Based on the massive amounts of tweets and emails I have received since posting this, some clarification is in order. Many believe you all (my valued readers) are not smart enough to know that non-AQ teams individually receive less than AQ teams when the day is done. I believe you all know this. But, just in case you don’t, I’ve revised the information below to make it abundantly clear.

Listening to sports talk radio over the past couple of weeks I’ve heard quite a few people suggest that the only real punishment for a program like USC or Ohio State would be to hit them in the wallet. Quite a few of you believe there should be a return of tv and bowl payout money if a team has to vacate games. Let’s talk about why that will likely never be a penalty in college football.

First, here’s something important you should know, if you don’t already. How do the payouts work for BCS bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange) and the National Championship Game?

I bet many of you didn’t know the first team selected from one of the non-AQ conferences (MAC, WAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West, C-USA) actually receives a larger, yes larger, amount than a team who automatically qualify from one of the AQ conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Big East). It’s true, although that’s before conferences get involved. The first team selected from a non-AQ conference receives $24.7 million* (see below for how this payout is handled). The automatic qualifiers from the six AQ conferences receive $21.2 million each. Any other AQ teams who play in BCS bowls take in $6 million each.

In fact, the non-AQ conferences receive money even if no team from a non-AQ conference is selected for a BCS bowl game, to the tune of $12.35 million. Whether the non-AQs have a team in and receive the $24.7 million, or receive the $12.35 million for not having a team in, they have decided amongst themselves to divide BCS monies evenly between all five conferences. That’s their choice.

Now, based on tweets and email received after I wrote this piece, I need to explain this a little bit further. It is true that the first non-AQ team selected for a BCS bowl receives more than an automatic qualifying team – but that’s before conferences get involved. Payouts are filtered through the conference the team belongs to, and the conference decides how to divide the payout. The non-AQ conferences have decided in an agreement amongst themselves to divide all BCS money equally between all conferences. By contrast, each AQ conference keeps what it receives and determines how to divide amongst the schools. Most subtract expenses of the team who participated and then divide the rest equally. At the end of the day, each AQ school receives more than each non-AQ school. But, I’m pretty sure you all knew that already.

Just for the sake of spreading knowledge, there are other teams who receive a BCS share even if they don’t compete. Notre Dame, for example, receives $6 million if they are chosen for a BCS bowl, but still receive $1.7 million even if they aren’t selected. Army and Navy each receive $100,000, even if not chosen for a BCS bowl. In addition, each FCS conference (who don’t even participate in the BCS) receive $250,000.

Now that we’ve covered how payouts work, make note that the NCAA has no involvement whatsoever. That’s the short answer as to why a return of bowl money isn’t part of any NCAA penalty. It’s out of their control.

The BCS would have to demand the return of bowl money. That’s not going to happen. I heard Bill Hancock on the radio months ago talking about USC’s penalties and he was asked why they weren’t taking back the payout received by USC for the BCS National Championship Game since the win was being vacated. It was pretty simple in his mind: if USC hadn’t played in that game, another Pac-10 team would have played in a BCS bowl since the Pac-10 gets an automatic berth. So, either way the Pac-10 would have gotten the same payout, because as I described above, the payout is the same whether you’re playing in the title game or any of the other four BCS bowls. Plus, the payout goes to the conference, not to the individual team. That makes it easy for the BCS to put the burden on the conferences. The Pac-10 would have to reclaim the funds from USC for the portion they received. That’s never going to happen.

Even as USC serves their bowl ban, they’re still receiving the same distribution from the now Pac-12 as they would receive if they were participating in bowls. The only real loss is the actual playing in the bowl, which I would imagine has a larger impact on the players than the institution. The school will still receive the same financial benefits from the conference, including a portion of the BCS payout to the conference.

The same is largely true when we talk about reclaiming television money as a penalty. It would have to be a conference level decision, and a conference is never going to penalize a team like that. However, the NCAA does have a penalty whereby they can ban a program from live television appearances. They haven’t used it since 1994, when Ole Miss was banned for one year. Most believe it’s no longer used because it impacts more than just the school being punished – the punishment is felt by every program that plays the school, especially FCS schools who are missing their shot to be on television and increase their profile.

I’m not defending the situation, but I hope I’ve shed some light on why a return of bowl or tv money is never discussed in terms of penalties levied by the NCAA.

*These are the numbers from the 2010-2011 season.

Using Student Fees to Support Athletic Department Budget

Today over on USA Today they’ve got a piece on schools who use student fees and other institutional support to round out the athletic department budget. The piece focuses on Rutgers, but also lists the ten schools who rely the most on these funds in automatic qualifying conferences: 

Schools from BCS automatic qualifying conferences with the greatest amount of 2009-10 athletics revenue allocated from institutional or government support or student fees: 
School, conference Amount
Rutgers, Big East $26,867,679
Connecticut, Big East $14,578,029
South Florida, Big East $14,185,037
Maryland, ACC $13,749,781
Tennessee, SEC $13,552,020
Cincinnati, Big East $13,457,464
Virginia, ACC $12,160,103
California, Pac-10 $12,098,974
Oregon State, Pac-10 $10,960,616
Arizona State, Pac-10 $10,349,536
Note: Amounts not adjusted for inflation

Sources: Individual schools, USA TODAY research in conjunction with Indiana University’s National Sports Journalism Center

A couple of months ago, I did a series of pieces on schools who were relying on student fees to balance their athletic department budget. You can find the Top 25 in the BCS for the 2009-2010 school year here. If you’re curious about a specific school, I posted the numbers for every BCS school by conference. You can find the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 here, the ACC, Pac-10 and Big East here, and the non-AQ conferences here.

A number of you have pointed out that these student fees often get students free admission to athletic events. Although that’s a nice perk, I wonder what percentage of the student body actually takes advantage of this offer. To me, this is not the best argument in favor of student fees going to subsidize the athletic department.

That being said, I don’t necessarily have an issue with universities subsidizing the athletic department. After all, it is a part of the university. Just as the university funds the English department, they fund the athletic department. When an athletic department is able to support itself, like these we looked at a couple of weeks ago, that’s fantastic. However, I’m not convinced that every athletic department should be expected to do so. Athletic departments should be expected to operate as efficiently and profitably as possible while meeting the goals of the department and the university. What I don’t like to see are universities who are self-sustaining and still receive student fees or institutional support.

Athletics do a number of things for a university. They often receive national attention, which strengthens their brand. This causes increases in applications and licensing revenue, amongst other benefits. I’ve been researching this in-depth for my new book on the business of college football, and I can tell you that there are a number of advantages to a university having an athletic department. I don’t honestly believe that any university would be so fiscally irresponsible as to assist in funding an athletic department if they weren’t receiving a return on their investment, at least not when you look at a broad spectrum of years.

Just some food for thought until my book is out and I can share more concrete examples.

Student Fees for Non-AQ Schools

This morning I showed you the Top 25 Recipients of Student Activity Fees in the BCS, and last week we looked at each school in the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 and the ACC, Pac-10 and Big East.

Below is a breakdown, by conference, of every school in a non-AQ conference. Remember, “N/A” means the school is either private or otherwise immune to open records request, whereas “0” means the athletic department does not receive student fees. Also, numbers are from the 2009-2010 school year.

Conference USA

School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
University of Central Florida $17,466,918.00 44%
East Carolina University $10,441,783.00 32%
University of Memphis $7,666,067.00 19%
Univ of Southern Miss $6,056,608.00 31%
University of Houston $4,728,620.00 14%
UTEP $4,189,751.00 16%
Marshall University $4,150,759.00 18%
Univ. of Alabama – B’ham $3,454,483.00 14%
Rice University N/A N/A
Tulane University N/A N/A
University of Tulsa N/A N/A

Mid-American Conference

School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
Ohio Univ $16,460,250.00 69%
Univ of Akron $16,199,911.00 67%
Miami Univ (OH) $13,786,549.00 53%
Kent State $10,516,660.00 54%
Univ of Toledo $9,824,257.00 49%
Bowling Green $9,497,261.00 50%
Ball State Univ $9,221,400.00 46%
Northern Illinois Univ $8,333,419.00 38%
Univ of Buffalo $7,439,422.00 29%
Eastern Michigan Univ $1,572,843.00 6%
Central Michigan Univ $0.00 0%
Western Michigan Univ $0.00 0%

Mountain West Conference

School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
San Diego State Univ $10,220,740.00 31%
Colorado State $4,774,723.00 18%
Univ of Utah $4,168,754.00 14%
UNLV $2,287,676.00 4%
Univ New Mexico $1,608,093.00 4%
Univ of Wyoming $1,156,548.00 4%
USAF Academy $428,142.00 1%

Sun Belt Conference

School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
Florida Intl Univ $15,635,778.00 71%
Florida Atlantic Univ $8,877,456.00 55%
Middle Tennessee State $6,848,065.00 33%
Western Kentucky $6,437,652.00 28%
Univ South Alabama $5,680,478.00 35%
Univ North Texas $5,007,059.00 49%
Univ Arkansas Little Rock $3,627,665.00 38%
Arkansas State Univ $2,832,773.00 30%
Troy Univ $712,380.00 5%
Univ Louisiana Monroe $362,045.00 3%
Univ Louisiana Lafayette $0.00 0%

Western Athletic Conference

School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
San Jose State $4,683,122.00 23%
Utah State $3,700,874.00 19%
Boise State Univ $2,980,056.00 8%
New Mexico State $2,613,320.00 10%
Univ Nevada Reno $2,333,116.00 10%
Univ Idaho $2,218,219.00 14%
Univ Hawaii $0.00 0%
Louisiana Tech Univ $0.00 0%
Cal State Univ – Fresno N/A N/A

Top 25 Recipients of Student Activity Fees in BCS

Student Section at UCF Football Game

Last week I showed you the top recipients of student fees in the AQ conferences. That list changes dramatically when you consider non-AQ schools. Here are the top 25 recipients of student activity fees in the BCS based on dollar amount:

1 University of Central Florida $17,466,918.00 44%
2 Ohio Univ $16,460,250.00 69%
3 Univ of Akron $16,199,911.00 67%
4 Florida Intl Univ $15,635,778.00 71%
5 Miami Univ (OH) $13,786,549.00 53%
6 University of South Florida $13,026,289.00 33%
7 University of Virginia $12,160,103.00 15%
8 Kent State $10,516,660.00 54%
9 East Carolina University $10,441,783.00 32%
10 San Diego State Univ $10,220,740.00 31%
11 Univ of Toledo $9,824,257.00 49%
12 Bowling Green $9,497,261.00 50%
13 Ball State Univ $9,221,400.00 46%
14 Florida Atlantic Univ $8,877,456.00 55%
15 University of Connecticut $8,626,506.00 15%
16 Rutgers University $8,441,092.00 13%
17 Northern Illinois Univ $8,333,419.00 38%
18 University of Memphis $7,666,067.00 19%
19 Univ of Buffalo $7,439,422.00 29%
20 Florida State University $6,919,449.00 9%
21 University of North Carolina $6,859,868.00 9%
22 Middle Tennessee State $6,848,065.00 33%
23 Virginia Tech $6,533,756.00 10%
24 Western Kentucky $6,437,652.00 28%
25 Univ of Southern Miss $6,056,608.00 31%

Only six on the list come from AQ conferences and all are either from the ACC or Big East. It’s also interesting to note that five Florida schools and four Ohio schools are in the top 25, which I’ll discuss more below.

Perhaps more interesting than the dollar amount, which is certainly influenced by size of enrollment and amount of student activity fees charged per student, is which schools top the list in terms of the percent of total athletic department revenue being generated by student fees:

  School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
1 Florida Intl Univ $15,635,778.00 71%
2 Ohio Univ $16,460,250.00 69%
3 Univ of Akron $16,199,911.00 67%
4 Florida Atlantic Univ $8,877,456.00 55%
5 Kent State $10,516,660.00 54%
6 Miami Univ (OH) $13,786,549.00 53%
7 Bowling Green $9,497,261.00 50%
8 Univ of Toledo $9,824,257.00 49%
9 Univ North Texas $5,007,059.00 49%
10 Ball State Univ $9,221,400.00 46%
11 University of Central Florida $17,466,918.00 44%
12 Northern Illinois Univ $8,333,419.00 38%
13 Univ Arkansas Little Rock $3,627,665.00 38%
14 Univ South Alabama $5,680,478.00 35%
15 University of South Florida $13,026,289.00 33%
16 Middle Tennessee State $6,848,065.00 33%
17 East Carolina University $10,441,783.00 32%
18 San Diego State Univ $10,220,740.00 31%
19 Univ of Southern Miss $6,056,608.00 31%
20 Arkansas State Univ $2,832,773.00 30%
21 Univ of Buffalo $7,439,422.00 29%
22 Western Kentucky $6,437,652.00 28%
23 San Jose State $4,683,122.00 23%
24 University of Memphis $7,666,067.00 19%
25 Utah State $3,700,874.00 19%

Seven schools get at least half their budget from student fees, with students at Florida International providing more than 70% of the total revenue for the athletic department! If you expand the pool to schools receiving at least a third of their athletic department revenue from student fees, you’re up to sixteen schools. This time only one AQ school makes it onto the list: South Florida. While there’s certainly a trend in the non-AQ conferences for requiring student fees to fund athletics, there’s a definite pattern in Florida and Ohio.

I spoke with Brad Stricklin of University of Central Florida Read the rest of this entry