How Does the Mid-American Conference Stack Up Financially?

Last Updated on November 19, 2020

After writing about the football finances of the SECBig Ten, ACCPac-10, Big 12, and Big East, it’s time to turn to the non-AQ conferences.  I showed you Conference USA earlier this week, so now it’s time for the Mid-American Conference.

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 Mid-American, 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)

We saw that Conference USA’s average football revenue was about half that of the lowest AQ conference, the Big East, at $9.3 million. The Mid-American is going to come in at barely over half of Conference USA and just over a quarter of the Big East’s number at $5.5 million. 

While the gap in Conference USA from highest to lowest was about $9.6 million (compared to huge gaps like $57.8 in the SEC and $52.1 in the Big Ten), the gap in the Mid-American is just $4.8 million:

 Football Revenue
Ohio Univ$7,467,896.00
Central Michigan Univ$7,035,878.00
Miami Univ (OH)$6,903,977.00
Eastern Michigan Univ$6,076,907.00
Univ of Akron$5,738,172.00
Univ of Toledo$5,536,563.00
Univ of Buffalo$5,271,139.00
Ball State Univ$5,252,502.00
Western Michigan Univ$5,065,840.00
Kent State$4,394,681.00
Bowling Green$4,154,484.00
Northern Illinois Univ$2,729,774.00

The top revenue producers are also the top spenders, at least in the case of Ohio, Central Michigan and Miami (OH):

 Football Expenses
Ohio Univ$7,385,482.00
Central Michigan Univ$7,035,878.00
Miami Univ (OH)$6,903,977.00
Northern Illinois Univ$5,955,460.00
Univ of Akron$5,738,172.00
Univ of Toledo$5,536,563.00
Univ of Buffalo$5,271,139.00
Ball State Univ$5,252,502.00
Western Michigan Univ$5,065,840.00
Eastern Michigan Univ$5,037,556.00
Kent State$4,394,681.00
Bowling Green$4,052,175.00

You’ll notice that Northern Illinois went from being the smallest revenue producer to the fourth biggest spender on football. As you’ll see later in this piece, Northern Illinois operates at an over deficit when you look at revenues generated by teams minus expenses spent on teams. They’re far from the only one, but we’ll look at them as an example after we look at total athletic department profit.

Only a few schools are showing a profit from football in the Mid-American:

 Football Profit
Eastern Michigan Univ$1,039,351.00
Bowling Green$102,309.00
Ohio Univ$82,414.00
Univ of Akron$0.00
Univ of Buffalo$0.00
Kent State$0.00
Miami Univ (OH)$0.00
Ball State Univ$0.00
Central Michigan Univ$0.00
Univ of Toledo$0.00
Western Michigan Univ$0.00
Northern Illinois Univ-$3,225,686.00

Only one of the schools who showed a profit from football, Ohio University, ended up showing an overall profit in the athletic department, although you’ll see later in the piece why football is unlikely to be the reason any school in the Mid-American is turning a profit in the athletic department.

 Athletic Dept Profit
Ohio Univ$1,330,715.00
Western Michigan Univ$542,993.00
Miami Univ (OH)$391,544.00
Central Michigan Univ$68,593.00
Univ of Buffalo$2,751.00
Univ of Akron$0.00
Bowling Green$0.00
Kent State$0.00
Ball State Univ$0.00
Eastern Michigan Univ$0.00
Northern Illinois Univ$0.00
Univ of Toledo$0.00

Keep in mind that most of the schools you see in these pieces who are showing a “$0.00” total are actually operating at a deficit. Some cover that deficit with student fees, direct institutional support, alumni contributions or even monies pulled from their reserves. I said we would come back to Northern Illinois. Just as an example, Northern Illinois comes in at an over $9 million deficit when you look at just total revenues generated by teams minus total expenses spent on those teams. So, how do they cover that loss?

The real story in non-AQ conferences (and amongst some of the AQ schools as well) is student fees and direct institutional support. Earlier this week, I showed you the Top 25 schools, both in terms of dollars and percent of total revenue, who are recipients of student fees. Nine of the top 25 in dollar amount were in the Mid-American, including three in the top five: Ohio (2), Akron (3), Miami (OH) (5), Kent State (8), Toledo (11), Bowling Green (12), Ball State (13), Northern Illinois (17), and Buffalo (19). Those same nine also make it onto the Top 25 list for the percentage of their total revenue coming from student fees, with Ohio (2), Akron (3) and Kent State (5) falling in the top five. Ohio University at #2 on both lists has student fees accounting for 69% of its athletic department’s total revenue.

Every school in the Mid-American relies on both student fees and direct institutional support to keep the athletic department afloat. Let’s look at how much each Mid-American school receives in terms of these fees. Schools are listed in order from largest to smallest in terms of total support:

SchoolStudent FeesDirect Institutional SupportTotal Support
Univ of Buffalo$7,439,422.00$10,033,178.00$17,472,600.00
Univ of Akron$16,199,911.00$1,048,022.00$17,247,933.00
Miami Univ (OH)$13,786,549.00$3,310,991.00$17,097,540.00
Eastern Michigan Univ$1,572,843.00$15,334,255.00$16,907,098.00
Ohio Univ$16,460,250.00$0.00$16,460,250.00
Central Michigan Univ$0.00$16,457,883.00$16,457,883.00
Kent State$10,516,660.00$5,109,807.00$15,626,467.00
Western Michigan Univ$0.00$13,815,834.00$13,815,834.00
Ball State Univ$9,221,400.00$4,214,685.00$13,436,085.00
Northern Illinois Univ$8,333,419.00$4,350,141.00$12,683,560.00
Bowling Green$9,497,261.00$410,337.00$9,907,598.00
Univ of Toledo$9,824,257.00$0.00$9,824,257.00

Over half of the revenue at each of these schools comes from these sources. How important do you think it is for universities to provide and support athletics programs? Do you see a need for change? If so, what sort of change do you have in mind?

[UPDATE: I did not include Temple University in my original numbers because they are only a member of the Mid-American for football (otherwise, they are a member of the Atlantic 10). However, I’ve been asked about their numbers, so here are their football numbers along with where they rank in the Mid-American:

Football Revenue: $10,093,610.00 (1)

Football Expenses: $10,093,610.00 (1)

Football Profit: $0

In case you’re curious, they show $0 for athletic department profit.]

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 ACC 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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  • Stephen Schavrien
    May 1, 2011

    These are figures for the Mid-America Conference, which has 13 teams you you only list twelve. Please add in Temple, it’s missing.


    • Kristi Dosh
      May 1, 2011

      I didn’t originally include Temple because they are only a member of the Mid-American for football. While I focus on football numbers, my real intent is to look at a snapshot of each conference. Nonetheless, I’ve gone back and added Temple’s data at the bottom before the note.