Category Archives: Finance

New stipends put spotlight on colleges’ math


The start of a new school year ushers in a new financial reality for college athletic departments and, with it, questions about the hot new statistic in college sports: cost of attendance, or COA.

Schools use cost of attendance to determine a student’s need for financial aid, and federal law dictates the types of expenses that can be taken into account when a financial aid department determines its COA figure for the academic year. Athletic departments have traditionally provided grants-in-aid to cover a majority of COA components — tuition, books, room and board — but NCAA rules have prohibited them from covering travel/transportation and personal and miscellaneous expenses.

In January, however, the power five conferences — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — granted the ability to offer student athletes stipends to cover the full cost of attendance, and the other Division I football conferences followed suit.

And that’s where the questions come in. The methods that financial aid offices use to determine figures for travel and personal expenses differ from school to school. Different methods mean some schools offer larger stipends than others, creating a new point of differentiation in the hypercompetitive world of college athletics recruiting.

The change sparked a debate about whether the system could be manipulated to provide higher COAs, and the accompanying recruiting advantage, for some schools.

Click here to continue reading my piece in last week’s SportsBusiness Journal (no subscription required).

Travel Stipends for NCAA Final Fours and College Football Playoff a Huge Success

NCAA and CFP Travel StipendsLast year, the NCAA did something unprecedented: they approved a pilot program to provide travel stipends to the parents or guardians of men’s and women’s basketball student athletes participating in the Final Four (up to $3,000 per student athlete) and National Championship (an additional $1,000 per student athlete).

The program also authorized the College Football Playoff to provide up to $3,000 per student athlete for the College Football Playoff National Championship, although the CFP ultimately adopted a $2,500 per student athlete stipend program.

Men’s and women’s basketball travel stipends

A month ago, the NCAA announced it would be extending the program for men’s and women’s basketball for a year, and then Tuesday the College Football Playoff followed suit and extended its program for another year.

Click here to keep reading my piece on Outkick the Coverage on

Texas A&M Paying Tab for Ifedi’s Loss of Value Insurance

Schools pick up tab for insuranceLast year, Texas A&M discovered a new use of the Student Assistance Fund, a pool of money created out of revenue from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and earmarked for student athletes with financial need. The fund has typically been used for expenses like trips home and clothing, but Texas A&M asked for a clarification last year regarding the insurance needs of student athletes and sparked a bit of a new trend when it spent $50,000-60,000 on a loss-of-value insurance policy for Cedric Ogbuehi.

Although disability insurance has been around for student athletes for quite some time, loss-of-value insurance is a newer phenomenon. Loss-of-value insurance pays out if a student athlete falls precipitously in the NFL draft due to an injury.

I wrote an in-depth piece for SportsBusiness Journal last year on this growing trend – which schools have purchased the policies, whether there’s any danger of depleting the SAF through the purchase of these policies and more – that you can read here (they’ve made it public, so you should be able to read even without a subscription).

Now Texas A&M is in the news again, with CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reporting the Aggies have purchased a loss-of-value policy for redshirt junior offensive tackle Germain Ifedi.

There are few cases of these policies paying out for student athletes, although former USC student athlete Marquis Lee is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Lloyd’s of London over his policy and the injury that led him to drop in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Want to learn more about loss-of-value insurance and how the SAF has been used previously to purchase policies, please read my article for SportsBusiness Journal.

College Football Playoff Revenue Makes Every Conference Richer, Except One

College Football Playoff, College Football Playoff RevenueWhich conferences benefitted the most from the transition to the College Football Playoff?

It depends on how you look at it.

The Mountain West saw the largest percentage increase in revenue from $3.6 million to $23.5 million, a 553 percent increase. It was the Pac-12, however, who saw the largest increase in pure dollar and cents with a $41.4 million increase.

Click here to continue reading my piece on Outkick the Coverage on

Full conference-by-conference financials for the College Football Playoff vs. the Bowl Championship Series now available here.

Obama Wants to End Tax Deduction for Donations to College Athletics

Obama wants to end tax deductionsThe new budget President Obama sent to Congress this week calls for an end to tax deductions for donations made to college athletic departments for season tickets or preferential seating, also known as seat-related contributions. Currently, 80 percent of these donations are tax deductible.

The administration claims people would pay an additional $2.5 billion in taxes over the next decade with this change.

No doubt, college athletics administrators will watch this development closely. Donations are the highest source of revenue in virtually every athletic department. Yes, even higher than those television contracts you hear so much about.

Here is a random sampling of schools throughout FBS to give you an idea of the revenue they generate from donations compared to their total distribution from their conference (television contract, championships, etc.) and the NCAA (March Madness):

School Donations NCAA + Conference Distribution
Alabama $34,233,035 $23,855,929
Louisville $28,935,662 $15,349,134
Michigan $31,285,461 $27,845,239
Texas $37,386,271 $21,740,373
Western Kentucky $3,379,547 $1,634,776
Utah State $2,962,548 $1,888,296
Central Florida $5,088,098 $3,333,291
Source: Reports filed by schools with the NCAA for the 2012-2013 school year
The numbers above include all contributions reported for the year, not just donations made as required for season tickets or preferential seating. However, those seat-related donations account for the majority of donations on a year-to-year basis according to the development folks I’ve interviewed.
Would fans still donate if they no longer received that 80 percent tax deduction? One athletic director told me for my book Saturday Millionaires a couple of years ago that he thought donations would drop by as much as half without the deduction.
Would fans really be willing to give up their seats and all the years of points they’ve built up if they weren’t getting the tax deduction? I’m sure there would be some at the lower end of the scale who might not see it as such a good investment anymore, but I’m not wholly convinced it would have a major impact on giving.  I’d love to hear from those of you working in development in the comments section!
As a side note, Obama’s budget plan also calls for an end to the use of tax-exempt bonds to build facilities for professional sports teams. The plan states debt to finance those facilities would be taxable if 10 percent or more of the facility is used for a private business (i.e., a professional sports team). Implementation is projected to be worth $542 million in tax revenue over ten years.
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Donors Conditioning Gifts to Athletic Departments on Successful Recruiting

Donors conditioning gifts on successful recruitingYou read that headline right – some donors are now conditioning their gifts on their team’s successful recruitment of specific student athletes.

Chadd Scott over on SportsDay Now has a story about a new site called Ubooster, which allows donors to condition their gifts on a specific team signing a specific student athlete. If the student athlete declares his intent on National Signing Day, the athletic department will receive the donation. If not, the donor doesn’t make any donation at all.

Clemson has already indicated it will accept no donations through this method. I wouldn’t be surprised to see every other school follow suit.

You can read more about it over on SportsDay Now. In the interest of full disclosure, the writer is my husband. I’m only mad he found the story before I did!

Power Five Approve Cost of Attendance for Student Athletes at NCAA Convention

Power 5 Approve Cost of AttendanceIt came as no surprise that the Power Five conferences easily passed the cost of attendance measure being considered at the NCAA convention on Saturday. The final vote tally was 79-1 in favor of going to scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance, with 64 of the 65 schools and all 15 of the student athletes voting in favor of the proposal.

Click  here to keep reading my commentary on Outkick the Coverage on

College Football Playoff: Conference Payouts

2014-15 CFP Revenue DistributionUPDATE: ACC, SEC, Big XII, Sun Belt, Pac-12 and Big Ten distribution has been added below. Additional conference models will be added as available.

Last week, I shared the revenue distribution model for the first year of the College Football Playoff. Now that pairings have been announced, we know how it works out for each conference (and yes, the Orange Bowl pays more than the CFP due to the nature of its contract – and next year when the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowls aren’t hosting semifinals, they’ll have larger payouts, as detailed at the end).

Keep in mind that all of this money goes to the conference, not to the team playing in the game. Most conferences split it equally between all 12-14 teams with an equal share also going to the conference office (although some give a bonus to the team participating in the game).

Power Five:


$50 million base to the conference

$6 million to the conference for FSU (Rose Bowl – CFP semifinal)

$27.5 million to the conference for Georgia Tech (Orange Bowl)

Total: $83.5 million to the conference

Conference distribution model: all bowl revenue is divided equally after expense allotments for the participating teams and is included in annual distribution along with other conference revenue. The only exception is Notre Dame (as it relates to football revenue), which is handled separately under a conference agreement that has not been made public.


$50 million base to the conference

$4 million to the conference for TCU (Peach Bowl)

$4 million to the conference for Baylor (Cotton Bowl)

Total: $58 million to the conference

Conference distribution model: Bowl revenues are divided evenly between the 10 member institutions after subsidies are provided to participating institutions.

Big Ten

$50 million base to the conference

$6 million to the conference for Ohio State (Sugar Bowl – CFP semifinal)

$4 million to the conference for Michigan State (Cotton Bowl)

Total: $60 million to the conference

Conference distribution model: all bowl revenue is distributed equally between member institutions (taking into account financial integration plans for newer members) after a pre-determined amount for travel and related expenses is provided to participating institutions.


$50 million base to the conference

$6 million to the conference for Oregon (Rose Bowl – CFP semifinal)

$4 million to the conference for Arizona (Fiesta Bowl)

Total: $60 million to the conference

Conference distribution model: divided equally between all members.


$50 million base to the conference

$6 million to the conference for Alabama (Sugar Bowl – CFP semifinal)

$4 million to the conference for Ole Miss (Peach Bowl)

$27.5 million to the conference for Mississippi State (Orange Bowl)

Total: $87.5 million to the conference

Conference distribution model: For bowl games with receipts of $4,000,000 – $5,999,999, the participating team retains $1.475 million (Ole Miss), plus a travel allowance determined by SEC. For bowl games with receipts of $6 million or more, the participating team receives $2 million (Alabama and Mississippi State), plus a travel allowance determined by the SEC. If an SEC team makes it to the championship game, it receives another $2.1 million, plus travel allowance. The remainder of the revenue from these bowls is divided 15 ways – one share for each of the 14 SEC teams and one share for the conference office. There’s also a distribution method for bowls with lower payouts, but I’m not covering that here.

Group of Five:


$12 million base to the conference (1/5th of $60 million, per Group of Five formula)*


$12 million base to the conference (1/5th of $60 million, per Group of Five formula)*


$12 million base to the conference (1/5th of $60 million, per Group of Five formula)*

Mountain West

$12 million base to the conference (1/5th of $60 million, per Group of Five formula)*

$4 million to the conference for Boise State (Fiesta Bowl)

Sun Belt

$12 million base to the conference (1/5th of $60 million, per Group of Five formula)*

Conference distribution model: equal division after travel subsidies.

* Based on reports from several sources, and also detailed in this article. The Group of Five have another $15 million to split, which sources tell me they will split according to computer rankings. The conference whose teams rank the highest in the aggregate will receive $5 million, the conference in second place $4 million, the conference in third place $3 million, the conference in fourth place $2 million and the conference in last place $1 million. It is unclear which computer rankings, or combination of computer rankings, will be used to make this determination. However, varying reports about the Group of Five formula are circulating. I’ll update this with anything new I learn.

Keep in mind that two of the contract bowls – the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl – are semifinal sites, meaning their contracts with the Big Ten/Pac-12 and SEC/Big XII, respectively, are not in play this year. In the years those games are played, each of those conferences will receive $40 million for playing in those games.

For full details on the payouts, including travel expenses and distributions to independents, and a comparison to the last year of the BCS, see this post.