Pac-10 Financials Show Little Athetics Profit

Last Updated on November 19, 2020

After writing about the football finances of the SECBig Ten, and ACC, it’s the Pac-10’s turn.  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.

For comparison’s sake, the Pac-10 stacks up more like the ACC than the SEC or Big Ten in terms of football revenue, as you can see:

Football Revenue:

SEC ($49.9m)

Big Ten ($40.6m)

Pac-10 ($24.6m)

ACC ($20.9m)

Probably not coincidentally, the average size of football stadium in each conferences lines up in exactly the same order:

SEC (78,348)

Big Ten (75,447)

Pac-10 (64,546)

ACC (58,880)

I was a little surprised to see who generated the most football revenue in the Pac-10. I would have picked USC or Oregon as the largest breadwinners, but instead it’s University of Washington and Arizona State:

 Football Revenue
Univ of Washington$33,919,639.00
Arizona State$29,587,236.00
Univ of Oregon$29,505,906.00
Univ of Southern California$29,080,117.00
Univ of Arizona$24,398,253.00
Univ of California, Berkeley$24,421,437.00
Univ of California, Los Angeles$22,298,856.00
Stanford Univ$21,309,949.00
Oregon State$19,056,237.00
Washington State$12,754,541.00

USC, who I expected to see atop the revenue list, was the biggest spender, however. The surprise on the expense list was Cal, who came in third:

 Football Expenses
Univ of Southern California$20,820,468.00
Univ of Washington$19,207,560.00
Univ of California, Berkeley$18,519,523.00
Univ of Oregon$18,071,012.00
Arizona State$17,977,987.00
Stanford Univ$17,236,945.00
Univ of California, Los Angeles$15,261,681.00
Univ of Arizona$13,685,931.00
Oregon State$11,981,026.00
Washington State$9,181,495.00

The conference as a whole comes in just a hair behind the Big Ten in terms of expenses:

Football Expenses:

SEC ($20m)

Big Ten ($17.9m)

Pac-10 ($16.2m)

ACC ($14.8m)

Washington, Arizona State and Oregon top the profit list in the Pac-10:

 Football Profit
Univ of Washington$14,712,079.00
Arizona State$11,609,249.00
Univ of Oregon$11,434,894.00
Univ of Arizona$10,712,322.00
Univ of Southern California$8,259,649.00
Oregon State$7,075,211.00
Univ of California, Los Angeles$7,037,175.00
Univ of California, Berkeley$5,901,914.00
Stanford Univ$4,073,004.00
Washington State$3,573,046.00

When you compare the Pac-10 to the SEC, Big Ten and ACC, however, an interesting trend emerges. When I began writing these pieces on college football finance, I expected to see a big gap between the BCS and non-BCS conferences. I also expected that the SEC and Big Ten would lead the way amongst BCS conferences. What I didn’t count on was how enormous the gap would be between the SEC/Big Ten and everyone else:

Football Profit:

SEC ($29.9m)

Big Ten ($22.7m)

Pac-10 ($8.4m)

ACC ($6m)

Not unexpected to see the same gap in football profit appear when we look at athletic department profit across the conferences, since football is notoriously the cash cow in an athletic department:

Athletic Department Profit:

Big Ten ($10.7m)

SEC ($8.2m)

ACC ($2.6m)

Pac-10 ($1.8m)

So, who is posting the biggest profits in their athletic department in the Pac-10? It’s not the California schools. All four California schools, along with Arizona State, show no profit in their athletic department. Only four schools broke even in the SEC, Big Ten and ACC combined. Who is making money then?

 Athletic Dept Profit
Univ of Oregon$9,753,014.00
Oregon State$2,943,398.00
Univ of Washington$2,393,812.00
Washington State$1,306,254.00
Univ of Arizona$1,199,802.00
Arizona State$0.00
Univ of Southern California$0.00
Univ of California, Berkeley$0.00
Univ of California, Los Angeles$0.00
Stanford Univ$0.00

Last summer, a panel of faculty and alumni were upset with the money being injected into athletics at the University of California, Berkeley.  That amount is said to be anywhere from $7-14 million per year. Shortly after this meeting, Cal announced it would be cutting five athletics programs: men’s baseball, men’s rugby, men’s and women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse.  USA Today noted that only one other school had ever announced comparable cuts: Rutgers following the 2006-2007 school year. In the end, enough money was raised to save all except men’s baseball and men’s gymnastics.

Cal’s struggles are not unique within the Pac-10. Washington, Arizona State and UCLA have also eliminated anywhere from one to three teams each in the past 20 years. For example, Washington cut men’s and women’s swimming in the spring of 2009. The school said swimming was the school’s sixth-highest expense and they would save $1.2 million by cutting the programs. The move was in response to the economic downturn.

However, when you look at the numbers reported above (which, remember, are from the 2009-2010 school year), University of Washington’s athletic department profit of $2.9 million would have more than covered those programs. Before you storm the athletic department with pitchforks in hand, it’s important to understand that decisions like these are made for the long-term.

Here’s what University of Washington Athletic Department Scott Woodward had to say when men’s and women’s swimming were cut: “”[It] was imperative to help fix the long-term financial picture of our department. We’re still fourth in number of sports we offer in the Pac-10. This is something we had to do in short term.” This is very similar to statements made by Cal following the announcement that men’s baseball would be cut despite supporters raising enough money to support the program for the next two years.

These numbers also don’t break out the amount of institutional support a given athletic department receives.  According to an NCAA report, only 14 schools operated without relying on institutional support in 2009, down from 25 in 2007. Names of the schools weren’t released, but the Pac-10 numbers would suggest that it was none of their members.

Financials for other conferences:  SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 and Big East.

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 Pac-10 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.

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.


  • Kristi Dosh

    Kristi A. Dosh is the founder of and has served as a sports business analyst and contributor for outlets such as Forbes, ESPN, SportsBusiness Journal, Bleacher Report, SB Nation and more. She is also the author of a book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires. Kristi is a sought-after consultant and speaker on topics related to the business of college sports and a former practicing attorney. Click to learn more

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