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Appearance on WTSP re: USF Student Fees

Thanks to Noah Pransky (@NoahPransky) of WTSP for interviewing me for his piece on USF student fees yesterday! Here’s the video:

And here’s Noah’s well-written piece on the story:

TAMPA, Florida – For most, it’s been four years of hard work, studying, and sacrifices.  But one thing many of the 5,700 graduating seniors at the University of South Florida never learned was how much of their money was going toward the growing athletic department.

By the time the average senior walks across the stage to get his or her diploma this week, he or she will have paid more than $1,600 to the USF Athletics Department through student fees.

Each student currently pays $13.73 per credit hour to the athletics department, more than the $11.28 that goes toward student activities and the $9.30 that goes toward student health.  Undergraduates need at least 120 credit hours to graduate.

All told, student fees make up $14.5 million of the university’s $34.9 million athletics budget, or 42% in budget year 2010-2011.

In the 2009-2010 budget, student fees made up only 33%, but it was still the largest total of any school in the six major conferences:

  1. USF (33%)
  2. Virginia (15%)
  3. UConn (15%)
  4. Rutgers (13%)
  5. Miss St. (10%)

“This is not unusual,” said Kristi Dosh of The Business of College Sports.  “(Most) sports lose money and football and men’s basketball have to make up for it along with alumni contributions and student fees.”

But at USF, she said, the football and men’s basketball programs are only turning profits of $4 million and $1 million, respectively, so student fees have to balance the budget.

Dosh added that many Florida public schools in smaller conferences relied even more heavily on student fees in the last full budget year, 2009-2010 (student fees as percentage of total athletics budget in parenthesis):

  1. FIU (71%)
  2. FAU (55%)
  3. UCF (44%)
  4. USF (33%)
  5. FSU (9%)
  6. UF (2%)

At the University of Florida, the football program turns a $44 million profit annually – more than the entire USF budget for all sports.  Alumni donations were also plentiful at UF.

USF alumni contributions were minimal, Dosh said.

“I’ve talked to a number of different athletic departments in similar positions (as USF),” Dosh said.  “The hope is that in the future, as their program grows and their football team gets stronger, alumni will step up and shoulder more of the burden.”

Dosh said USF revenue has soared since joining the Big East and should continue to grow, potentially easing the reliance on student fees.

And officials at USF pointed out students that pay the fees have access to free tickets to all events, including the largest football allocation in the Big East. 

Dosh and university officials both said a successful athletics program helps boost a university’s reputation as well as its academics.

“If the university has certain accolades and is well-known across the country,” Dosh said, “it can apply for research grants and other things…it can lift the whole school up.”

Connect with 10 News reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at, Facebook at, or on his Sports Business blog, Shadow of the Stadium.

I’ll only add a few things to his story. Although UCF funds their athletics budget with a larger percentage of student fees, they charge less per credit hour at $12.98 per hour. However, they have a larger student body and therefore take in more in terms of dollar amount and use it to fund a larger portion of the athletics budget. Students I’ve talked to at UCF have said they don’t mind. They point to the outstanding athletics facilities on campus and their hope that spending like a Big East program will one day make them a Big East program.

The other thing I wanted to touch on is something I wrote about yesterday in my Five-Year Snapshot of USF Athletics Finance.  USF has seen very little growth in alumni donations over the past five years at just over 8 percent.  I checked a couple of other programs in the conference and their increases in alumni contributions over the same time period was far more substantial: Louisville had a 45.82% increase and Rutgers had a whopping 116.34% increase. I also checked some other schools I had laying in front of me, both of which also had far more substantial increases than USF: UCF had a 58.11% increase and Memphis had a 64.38% increase.

The bottom line is that students are always going to be left to shoulder the burden when football profits and alumni contributions are not. The situation at USF is not unique, but it does more closely resemble the plight of non-AQ programs than the status quo of other AQ programs.

It’s my opinion that students will see a return on this investment if the program grows. When athletics programs are able to reach a national audience they attract more applicants to the school. Over time, this allows the school to be more selective. As the quality of the student population improves, the university garners more accolades and is able to improve academically by attracting better professors, qualifying for research grants and so on.

You can read more about finances around Conference USA here and see the entire list of top 25 student fee recipients here. Interested in what your school’s athletic department is taking in from students? You can find the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 here, the Pac-10, ACC and Big East here, and the non-AQ conferences here.

A Five-Year Snapshot of University of South Florida Athletics

As I prepare to go on WTSP in Tampa/St. Pete tonight to talk with my friend Noah Pransky about USF’s student activity fees, I’ve been looking at other USF data. I thought it would be interesting to see how the landscape has changed for them over the past five years. Here goes:

REVENUE 2004-2005 2004-2005 % of Total Revenue 2009-2010 2009-2010 % of Total Revenue Percent Change from 04/05-09/10
Ticket sales $2,975,011.00 14.47% $6,414,049.00 16.37% 115.60%
Student fees $9,183,299.00 44.65% $13,026,289.00 33.24% 41.85%
Guarantees $1,058,491.00 5.15% $1,101,000.00 2.81% 4.02%
Contributions $2,675,193.00 13.01% $2,893,587.00 7.38% 8.16%
Compensation and benefits provided by a third party $13,979.00 0.07% $92,400.00 0.24% 560.99%
Direct state or other government support $0.00 0% $0.00 0% 0.00%
Direct institutional support $1,093,589.00 5.32% $1,158,748.00 2.96% 5.96%
Indirect facilities and administrative support $0.00 0% $0.00 0% 0.00%
NCAA/conference distributions including all tournament revenues $1,426,973.00 6.94% $8,088,819.00 20.64% 466.85%
Broadcast, television, radio, and internet rights $400,000.00 1.94% $588,298.00 1.50% 47.07%
Program sales, concession, novelty sales, and parking $242,773.00 1.18% $334,251.00 0.85% 37.68%
Royalties, licensing, advertisements and sponsorships $1,042,549.00 5.07% $4,935,295.00 12.59% 373.39%
Sports camp revenues $0.00 0% $0.00 0% 0.00%
Endowment and investment income $242,750.00 1.18% $231,633.00 0.59% -4.58%
Other $211,264.00 1.03% $326,570.00 0.83% 54.58%
TOTAL $20,565,871.00   $39,190,939.00   90.56%
  Read the rest of this entry

How Much Did the BCS Top 25 Spend on Recruiting?

As I continue to write about the financial aspect of college athletics, I find myself wondering about things like how much money plays a role in winning. Is there one place where you can spend more money and increase your odds of competing for a championship? Or is the Athletic Director more of a conductor choosing which instruments to highlight and when in order to produce the best sounding symphony?

I thought it would be interesting to see how much spending on recruiting plays a role in football success. The numbers reflect recruiting expenses for the 2009-2010 school year.

One thing to note is that recruiting dollars are not broken down by sport, so the numbers you see below reflect the total amount spent on recruiting for all male athletes. Since football has the largest recruiting class and we can safely presume most schools spend the majority of their recruiting dollars on football, I think the numbers still paint an interesting picture.

Below you will see recruiting dollars spent during the 2009-2010 school year for each school in the 2010 BCS final standings, when presumably the athletes recruited with 2009-2010 dollars were then members of the team:

  School Recruiting Expenses % of Total Expenses
1 Auburn $1,129,984.00 1.24%
2 Oregon $844,235.00 1.29%
3 TCU $438,422.00 0.84%
4 Stanford $754,689.00 0.92%
5 Wisconsin $473,897.00 0.53%
6 Ohio State $676,966.00 0.65%
7 Oklahoma $1,010,570.00 1.14%
8 Arkansas $1,187,216.00 1.65%
9 Michigan State $677,958.00 1.10%
10 Boise State $158,355.00 0.63%
11 LSU $741,762.00 0.73%
12 Missouri $596,738.00 1.12%
13 Virginia Tech $625,207.00 1.24%
14 Oklahoma State $414,655.00 0.69%
15 Nevada $216,920.00 1.00%
16 Alabama $1,257,128.00 1.47%
17 Texas A&M $532,641.00 0.77%
18 Nebraksa $685,361.00 1.00%
19 Utah $466,532.00 1.46%
20 South Carolina $565,967.00 0.72%
21 Mississippi State $416,333.00 1.15%
22 West Virginia  $669,844.00 1.18%
23 Florida State $581,923.00 0.77%
24 Hawaii $272,078.00 0.93%
25 UCF $354,264.00 0.99%
  Averages $629,985.80 1.01%

Boise State is spending the paltry sum of $158,355, which is just 25% of the average. Only 26 of the 115 on the Broncos 2010 roster hailed from Idaho, with a huge percentage coming from as far away as California and Texas. Impressive that Boise State recruits so well on such a limited budget.

As an interesting side note, Boise State spends nearly as much on female recruiting as male, with female recruiting costs coming in at $123,287. That’s 44% of the total recruiting expenditures. Compare that to the leader for male recruiting expenses on this chart, Alabama, who only spends 26% of their recruiting expenditures on female recruiting. To complete the data needed for comparison, Alabama has 10 women’s teams and Boise State has 9 (with all track-related sports combined into one in each total).

The other thing that stood out to me was that Utah spent above average in terms of the percent of their total expenses advanced towards recruiting. In fact, they rank fourth overall in terms of percentage of total expenses spent on male recruiting. I was also surprised to see Ohio State and Michigan State from the Big Ten spending so much less than Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn from the SEC. The latter three make up the top three spenders overall on the list. Did this help them in their quest to move from a non-AQ conference to an AQ conference?

What surprised you from this list? If your school is on this list, how do you feel about what’s being spent on recruiting?