Where Does Notre Dame Fall Financially?

Last Updated on April 23, 2011

After writing about the football finances of the SEC, Big Ten, ACC,  Pac-10, Big 12 and Big East, I found myself wondering where Notre Dame fit into the financial picture.  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.

I think we can all conceded that if Notre Dame were to join a conference for football, it would be the Big Ten. As you can see, Notre Dame would be the second-highest revenue generator of all Big Ten football programs:

 Football Revenue
Penn State Univ.$70,208,584.00
Notre Dame$64,163,063.00
Ohio State Univ.$63,750,000.00
Univ. of Michigan$63,189,417.00
Univ. of Iowa$45,854,764.00
Michigan State Univ.$44,462,659.00
Univ. of Wisconsin$38,662,971.00
Univ. of Minnesota$32,322,688.00
Univ. of Illinois$25,301,783.00
Northwestern Univ.$22,704,959.00
Indiana Univ.$21,783,185.00
Purdue Univ.$18,118,898.00


They would also come in second in terms of money spent on football:

 Football Expenses
Ohio State Univ.$31,763,036.00
Notre Dame$29,490,788.00
Univ. of Wisconsin$22,041,491.00
Penn State Univ.$19,780,939.00
Univ. of Iowa$18,468,732.00
Univ. of Michigan$18,328,233.00
Michigan State Univ.$17,468,458.00
Univ. of Minnesota$17,433,699.00
Northwestern Univ.$15,733,548.00
Indiana Univ.$12,822,779.00
Purdue Univ.$11,821,265.00
Univ. of Illinois$11,092,122.00


You’ve seen how they stack up with programs from the Big Ten, but how well is Notre Dame really doing?

First, here’s some context. A report from the NCAA indicates that only 14 Division 1 schools broke even or made money in their athletic department last year without institutional support, and only 6 schools did it in each of the years from 2004-2009. Which means that most of the schools you’ve seen turning a profit in my series have been doing so with the aid of monies from outside the athletic department. For example, University of Virginia and Georgia Tech indicated to me they received upwards of $12 million and $4 million a year, respectively, from student activity fees. That is considered direct institutional support. In fact, the average amount of institutional support received by athletic departments went up from $8m in 2007-2008 to $10.2m in 2008-2009.

Although the NCAA did not list the 14 schools turning a net profit, Notre Dame is one of them. Athletic Director, Jack Swarbrick, has revealed that Notre Dame actually pours money back into the college’s coffers, to the tune of about $10 million in 2009.

Other schools that have been confirmed to be part of the 14: Alabama, University of Missouri, University of Texas, University of Florida, University of Tennessee and Ohio State University.

Unlike the other 13 schools on the list, Notre Dame is able to turn a profit without being part of a conference. They have their own lucrative television contract, rumored to garner them about $15m a year. However, Notre Dame finance professor Richard Sheehan, who was involved with the NBC negotiations, has said the rumored value is low. “The NBC contract is more lucrative than pretty much anyone knows,” he says.

In addition, Notre Dame receives a $4.5 million for each appearance in a BCS bowl and $1.3 million even if they aren’t selected for a BCS bowl. While that may seem like a lot, it’s about 75 percent less than they were receiving at the BCS’s inception. This is one of the reasons many wonder how much longer they can remain independent, but as the profit numbers show, the Irish’s athletic department isn’t exactly hurting financially.

For now, Notre Dame values its independence more than the extra millions that could be lining their pockets if they joined the Big Ten. We all chastise athletes, schools and leagues who put making money above all else. Why don’t we celebrate Notre Dame for honoring its history and own set of priorities?

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 ACC 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 BusinessofCollegeSports.com 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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  • Joe Schueller
    April 20, 2011

    It would be great to see you layer in graduation rates and overall academic performance in this analysis. While the $’s are interesting, these schools are supposed to be educating students too. Why not look at this from all 3 angles: $, GPA’s, and W/L records?