Who’s Making Money in SEC Football?

Last Updated on April 23, 2011

Is your team turning a profit in its athletic department? Is it spending in line with its revenue? Could this have any effect on performance on the field? Thanks to a federal statute requiring all colleges and universities that receive Title IV funding (federal student aid) to report the financials for their athletic department, I have the answers for you. (See the Note at the end for more information on this data.)

First, let’s take a look at how the schools rank in terms of revenue for just the football program. For added comparison, I have put each school’s stadium capacity next to their name, since that would have a direct effect on their ability to bring in revenue:

  Stadium CapacityFootball Revenue
1Univ. of Alabama101,821$71,884,525.00
2Univ. of Georgia92,746$70,838,539.00
3Louisiana State Univ.92,400$68,819,806.00
4Univ. of Florida88,548$68,715,750.00
5Auburn Univ.87,451$66,162,720.00
6Univ. of South Carolina80,250$58,266,159.00
7Univ. of Tennessee102,037$56,593,946.00
8Univ. of Arkansas76,000$48,524,244.00
9Univ. of Kentucky67,606$31,890,572.00
10Univ. of Mississippi60,580$28,409,774.00
11Mississippi State Univ.55,082$14,551,275.00
12Vanderbilt Univ.41,448$14,152,061.00

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to see perennial contenders like LSU, Florida and Alabama at the top. 

Now let’s take a look at who the big spenders are:

  Football Expenses
1Univ. of Alabama$31,118,134.00
2Auburn Univ.$27,911,713.00
3Louisiana State Univ.$25,566,520.00
4Univ. of Florida$24,457,557.00
5Univ. of South Carolina$22,794,211.00
6Univ. of Arkansas$22,005,104.00
7Univ. of Georgia$18,308,654.00
8Univ. of Tennessee$17,357,345.00
9Vanderbilt Univ.$14,152,061.00
10Univ. of Kentucky$13,905,724.00
11Univ. of Mississippi$11,920,510.00
12Mississippi State Univ.$9,951,097.00

Again, perennial contenders Alabama, LSU and Florida maintain their positions atop the list. However, take a look at Auburn, who ranks higher in terms of spending than revenue. Perhaps a foreshadowing of the 2010 season that was to come? And what about Georgia? They move from being the second highest in terms of revenue to only the seventh biggest spender.

In fact, Georgia brings in the most in terms of profits in SEC football because of their lower expenses relative to their revenues.  Their profit was over $8 million more than the next highest school, Florida:

  Football Profit
1Univ. of Georgia$52,529,885.00
2Univ. of Florida$44,258,193.00
3Louisiana State Univ.$43,253,286.00
4Univ. of Alabama$40,766,391.00
5Univ. of Tennessee$39,236,601.00
6Auburn Univ.$38,251,007.00
7Univ. of South Carolina$35,471,948.00
8Univ. of Arkansas$26,519,140.00
9Univ. of Kentucky$17,984,848.00
10Univ. of Mississippi$16,489,264.00
11Mississippi State Univ.$4,600,178.00
12Vanderbilt Univ.$0.00

Georgia isn’t just #1 in the SEC in terms of profits, they’re #2 in the entire country behind Texas.

If you do the math, Georgia is only putting 25.8% of their football revenue back into the program. Meanwhile, the 2009 National Champion, Alabama, was putting 43.3% back into their program, and the 2010 National Champion, Auburn, invested 42.2 percent. Is there perhaps a correlation between this and results on the field? Georgia went 7-5 in 2009 and just 6-6 in 2010. Comparing Georgia to Texas, who is the only school with bigger profits from football, the two are spending at about the same rate, with Texas putting 26.7% back into their program.  However, Texas is spending $25,112,331 to Georgia’s $18,308,654.

I’ll also note that Georgia is second in the SEC in terms of overall athletic department profit at $11.7 million. Alabama, who posted the highest profits for its athletic department, is an outlier with a $44 million profit (more to come on that in a later post). Ole Miss presented a balanced sheet, so they show no profit in the athletic department.  However, the other 10 schools posted an average profit of $5.4 million, putting Georgia’s athletic department at more than twice the average profit.

Can these 2009 numbers predict the future for Georgia? Take a look at the teams ahead of Georgia in terms of expenses (in the second chart above). In 2010, Georgia lost to every team they played who spent more than them in 2009: Florida, Arkansas and South Carolina.

Just some food for thought as we all spend the offseason pondering what went wrong in 2010 for our respective teams and what we can expect in 2011.

Financials for other conferences:  Big Ten, ACCPac-10, 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 SEC 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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