Money Not As Big in Big East Football

Last Updated on November 19, 2020

After writing about the football finances of the SECBig Ten, ACCPac-10 and Big 12, it’s time to turn to the Big East.  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.

 Football Revenue
West Virginia University$29,467,612.00
University of Pittsburgh$22,513,336.00
Rutgers University$19,494,261.00
Syracuse University$19,152,691.00
University of South Florida$16,562,391.00
University of Louisville$15,537,276.00
University of Cincinnati$13,325,304.00

Not surprisingly, money isn’t as big in Big East football as the other BCS conferences. In fact, the biggest earner doesn’t even make as much as the average in the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12:

Football Revenue:

SEC ($49.9m)

Big Ten ($40.6m)

Big 12 ($35.4m)

Pac-10 ($24.6m)

ACC ($20.9m)

Big East ($18.8)

Despite the Big East’s overall average being the lowest amongst BCS conferences, there are several schools from other conferences making less than the lowest revenue generator in the Big East: University of Maryland ($11.5m), Wake Forest ($10.2m) and Washington State ($12.8m).

We’ll see the same when we take a look at expenses, as a number of schools from other conferences spend less than the most conservative spender in the Big East. The biggest surprise to me when looking at expenditures on football was how far down the list top-earner West Virginia fell. Meanwhile, Rutgers is spending $2.00 more than it’s making, which makes it and Wake Forest the only two BCS schools showing a loss in football. UCONN shows it is breaking even, which makes it and Vanderbilt the only other two schools showing no profit from football.

 Football Expenses
Rutgers University$19,494,263.00
University of Pittsburgh$17,441,032.00
Syracuse University$15,300,740.00
West Virginia University$14,330,236.00
University of Louisville$12,222,307.00
University of South Florida$12,177,182.00
University of Cincinnati$11,599,780.00

As we’ve seen, the gap between expenditures on football isn’t as big as the revenue gap from conference to conference:

Football Expenses:

SEC ($20m)

Big Ten ($17.9m)

Pac-10 ($16.2m)

Big 12 ($15.8)

ACC ($14.8m)

Big East ($14.6)

When it comes to football program profit, it’s no surprise that West Virginia is leading the way, especially after seeing their expenses pale in comparison to several other Big East schools who are making significantly less on football. The Big East is, however, the only BCS conference to have more than one school failing to show a profit from football:

 Football Profit
West Virginia University$15,137,376.00
University of Pittsburgh$5,072,304.00
University of South Florida$4,385,209.00
Syracuse University$3,851,951.00
University of Louisville$3,314,969.00
University of Cincinnati$1,725,524.00
Rutgers University-$2.00

There’s a huge gap between the football profit being made by the leaders from the Big East, ACC and Pac-10 compared to the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12:

Big 12 – Texas ($68.8m)

SEC – Georgia ($52.5m)

Big Ten – Penn State ($50.4m)


Big East – West Virginia ($15.1m)

ACC – Virginia Tech ($14.9m)

Pac-10 – Washington ($14.7m)

This is what I have found most interesting while writing this series: the gap between the SEC, Big Ten and to some degree Big 12 and everyone else in the BCS. I expected to see a huge gap between BCS and non-BCS conferences, and I expected the SEC and Big Ten to lead the way amongst BCS conferences, but the difference between the have’s and have-not’s in the BCS is far larger than I anticipated.

A big piece of that gap is television contracts. The Big East’s television contract certainly accounts for a large part of the reason why they come in last place in terms of overall athletic department profit. For example, the Big East’s current contract brings in about $33.3m annually, while the ACC’s brings in $67m annually.

Reports have it that the Big East’s next contract may be worth twice as much as their current contract. However, that may not change the picture much relative to other conferences because they each either have new or upcoming contracts that are more lucrative than the ones reflected in these numbers.

Here’s how the schools within the conference stack up against one another:

 Athletic Dept Profit
West Virginia University$5,422,187.00
University of Louisville$2,229,650.00
University of South Florida$102,279.00
University of Cincinnati$0.00
University of Pittsburgh$0.00
Rutgers University$0.00
Syracuse University$0.00

Together with the Pac-10, they account for nine of the schools who show no profit in the athletic department. The other four conferences only have five schools between them who show no profit.

Despite having one less school breaking even than the Pac-10, the Big East still comes in last in terms of athletic department profit because their top-earner, West Virginia ($5.4m) makes just a little more than half what the top-earner in the Pac-10 makes: Oregon ($9.8m). Here are the averages of each conference:

Big Ten ($10.7m)

SEC ($8.2m)

Big 12 ($7.0m)

ACC ($2.6m)

Pac-10 ($1.8m)

Big East ($982k)

How will the picture change with conference realignment? Watch for my piece on that later this week!

You can view my full financial charts for each conference I’ve covered here.

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.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients.  Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.

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