Sun Belt Conference Finances

After writing about the football finances of the SECBig Ten, ACCPac-10, Big 12, Big East, Conference USA , Mid-American and Mountain West conferences, it’s time to take a look at the Sun Belt Conference. (Want to access all the conferences in the same place? Check out the Conference Finance Series category on the right-hand sidebar).

The numbers are drawn from schools’ reports to the U.S. Department of Education on the state of their athletic departments’ finances for July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. See the note at the end for more details on the data.

Before we look at football revenue in the Sun Belt, let’s take another look at the averages for the six AQ conferences:

Football Revenue:

SEC ($49.9m)

Big Ten ($40.6m)

Big 12 ($35.4m)

Pac-10 ($24.6m)

ACC ($20.9m)

Big East ($18.8m)

So far we’ve looked at every BCS conference except the Western Athletic conference. The Mountain West finishes as the most successful non-AQ conference in terms of football revenue at an average of $11.3 million. Conference USA came in at roughly half of the lowest AQ conference (the Big East) at $9.3 million. The average Mid-American school brought in just over half the revenue of an average Conference USA school at $5.5 million. The Sun Belt? They’re going to come in at around a quarter of the revenue seen in the Big East and barely more than a third of that seen in the non-AQ leader Mountain West at $4.7 million.

Here are football revenues in the Sun Belt by school:

  Football Revenue
Florida Intl  $6,915,199.00
MTSU $6,638,007.00
Western Kentucky $5,768,244.00
Troy Univ $5,386,426.00
Univ South Alabama $5,177,338.00
Univ North Texas $4,315,701.00
Louisiana – Lafayette $4,210,176.00
Arkansas State Univ $3,760,642.00
Louisiana – Monroe $2,982,373.00
Florida Atlantic  $2,280,834.00

The highest revenue-producing schools in the Sun Belt Conference are well below the average for the Mountain West and Conference USA. The bottom two in the Sun Belt aren’t even generating half what the top producers in the conference are bringing in. Showing once again that the have and have not complex is not just between AQ and non-AQ schools but also within those divisions and within conferences. We even saw this in the Big 12.

There’s only a slight shift in order when we look at the biggest spenders on football in the Sun Belt:

  Football Expenses
MTSU $6,638,007.00
Florida Intl  $6,225,125.00
Western Kentucky $5,768,244.00
Univ South Alabama $5,177,338.00
Troy Univ $5,029,312.00
Florida Atlantic  $4,610,870.00
Univ North Texas $4,315,701.00
Louisiana – Lafayette $4,210,176.00
Arkansas State Univ $3,760,642.00
Louisiana – Monroe $2,982,373.00

If you’re already doing the math in your head, you’ve probably figured out now many schools in the Sun Belt are turning a profit on football. Here are net profits:

  Football Profit
Florida Intl  $690,074.00
Troy Univ $357,114.00
Arkansas State Univ $0.00
Louisiana – Lafayette $0.00
Louisiana – Monroe $0.00
MTSU $0.00
Univ North Texas $0.00
Univ South Alabama $0.00
Western Kentucky $0.00
Florida Atlantic  -$2,330,036.00

If you’ve been reading BusinessofCollegeSports.com for long, you know what happens when football doesn’t make enough money to help cover the other sports. Generally, what happens is a greater reliance on institutional support. At some schools that means student fees. In fact, the Sun Belt had the second highest average for percent of athletic budget derived from student fees, behind only the Mid-American. Two Sun Belt schools, Florida Atlantic and Florida International, are in the top five out of all BCS schools for percentage of athletic department revenue coming from student fees. Florida International leads all BCS schools at 71% and is #4 in dollar amount at $15.6 million.

You won’t be surprised to find out only one school is reporting a net profit for their athletic department:

  Athletic Dept Profit
Florida Atlantic  $1,073,745.00
Arkansas State Univ $0.00
Florida Intl  $0.00
Louisiana – Lafayette $0.00
Louisiana – Monroe $0.00
MTSU $0.00
Univ North Texas $0.00
Univ South Alabama $0.00
Troy Univ $0.00
Western Kentucky $0.00

As I’ve explained before, showing a profit on these reports to the Department of Education does not mean the athletic department turns an actual profit. For most non-AQ schools, and some AQ schools, they can show this profit only by including funds like student fees and university subsidies. In Florida Atlantic’s case, $8.9 million, or 55%, of their total revenue is from student fees.

Read the Note below to find out more about these numbers. Also, check the rest of the site for true line item budgets from programs. I have some numbers from Sun Belt school Western Kentucky coming soon!

NOTE: The data I have is from the U.S. Department of Education. Federal statute requires schools to report the financials for their athletic department (if they receive the Title IV funding, which all Sun Belt schools do).  The statute prescribes what should be included in each category on the report.  For example, when we take a look at revenue the statute requires that it include gate receipts, broadcast revenues, appearance guarantees and options, concessions, and advertising. In terms of expenses, we’re looking at grants-in-aid, salaries, travel, equipment, and supplies.

It’s also important to note that this data is from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, so we’re talking about the 2009 football season.  Additionally, while these are the most complete numbers available for all Big East schools (a public records request wouldn’t get you financial information for the private schools), there is room for variance.

An official within an SEC athletic department provided me with the following qualifications to the data: ”For instance, some institutions may report debt service associated with their football stadium as direct football expenses, while others may show debt service as Other, Non-sport specific.  The same goes for game day security, parking, cleanup, etc. which some may show as direct football expenses, while others may show as facilities costs – not directly attributed to football.  I do believe total revenue and expense numbers are comparable, but when you break down the numbers into categories there is a lot of leeway for variances between institutions.”

Another variance that came to light in reviewing the SEC and Big Ten financials is that some schools do not attribute any of their broadcasting revenue to specific sports, but instead only include it in the Other, Non-Sport Specific category.  This means the athletic department profit number is probably the most reliable in terms of direct comparison.

Nonetheless, this is the most complete data available if you want to compare all of the schools (public and private).  Also, while the numbers may not allow for a perfect apples to apples comparison, they do reflect what each school chooses to show the federal government for purposes of proving their compliance with Title IX.  Certainly interesting to view the numbers in that light.

Thank you to my research assistant Ben Perreira for helping compile the data.

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