USA Today recently released updated figures for NCAA finances on a school-by-school basis for the 2015-16 academic year. USA Today maintains a huge database of all schools that publicly report revenue and expenses, and the data is fascinating stuff that can be sliced and diced a bunch of different ways.
First, here’s a link to the database:
And here’s a link to their methodology:
This one paragraph from the Methodology link concisely explains the data: “The data, updated for 2016, are based on the revenue and expense reports collected from more than 225 public schools in the NCAA’s Division I that have an obligation to release the data (the NCAA does not release the data publicly). The others are private or are covered under a state exemption.”
Who’s Included in the USA Today NCAA Finances Database, and Who’s Not
In short, public universities are included in the database, and private universities are not. There are also a few public schools that have exemptions from reporting requirements, and are thus not included. Pittsburgh is one example I can think of, though there may be more.
The database includes 230 schools, but for purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the Power 5 conferences: The ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC.
|ACC||15||8||Boston College, Duke,
Miami, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh,
Syracuse, Wake Forest
|Big 12||10||8||Baylor, TCU|
|PAC 12||12||10||Stanford, USC|
Therein lies one of the frustrations of doing this sort of analysis. Seven of the ACC’s 15 schools aren’t included in the database. That’s more than all other Power 5 conferences combined. (Six total schools among the other four Power 5 conferences are omitted.) Harumph.
This data paints a clearer picture of the Big Ten (13 of 14 schools included) and SEC (13 of 14) than it does other conferences, particularly the ACC (8 of 15). So there’s some apples-to-oranges stuff going on here, due to incomplete data.
Power 5 Finances, All In One Table
Here’s a listing of all Power 5 schools in one table, ranked by total revenue (sort of; see the note after the table).
2016 Power 5 Finances (per USA Today data)
|3||Ohio State||Big Ten||$170,789,765||$166,811,018||$3,978,747|
|12||Penn State||Big Ten||$132,248,076||$129,349,149||$2,898,927|
|16||Michigan State||Big Ten||$123,034,495||$121,892,394||$1,142,101|
|26||West Virginia||Big 12||$105,140,368||$85,900,652||$19,239,716|
|37||Oklahoma State||Big 12||$93,672,676||$92,926,534||$746,142|
|42||Texas Tech||Big 12||$82,996,321||$78,598,577||$4,397,744|
|48||Iowa State||Big 12||$78,355,500||$78,279,309||$76,191|
|49||Kansas State||Big 12||$77,936,664||$70,884,496||$7,052,168|
Note: There are 52 schools in the table, but the rankings go to 55. This is because three non-Power 5 schools are included in the top 55 (but not included in the table):
- No. 46: UConn (AAC), $79.2 million
- No. 53: UCF (AAC), $59.4 million
- No. 54: Cincinnati (AAC), $59.1 million
So Washington State brings up the rear at No. 55 ($58.8 million), including coming in behind three AAC schools. Ouch.
Virginia Tech ranks 41st out of the 52 Power 5 schools listed. Every school in the SEC makes more than Virginia Tech, and all but one Big Ten school (Purdue) makes more. In their own conference, the Hokies are only ahead of two other schools (NC State and GT), but if the numerous ACC private schools were included, VT would probably rank above more than a couple of them.
The Hokies have a revenue problem, but they also have a profit problem, at least they did in 2015-16. Tech lost $914,000 in athletics that year, one of only ten Power 5 schools listed to report a loss. (Worth noting, five of those 10 schools to report a loss are in the Pac 12.)
2016-17 figures should tell a different story for Virginia Tech. As we have reported previously, the Drive for 25 initiative and per-seat minimums in Lane Stadium have led to record Hokie Club membership and donations for the 2016-17 year. The 2015-16 numbers reported by USA Today include $19.3 million in donations, but this year, the Hokie Club brought in approximately $33 million, a big jump. So the Hokies will scooch up that list above a little bit, breaking into the top 40, perhaps the top 35.
Tech’s other problem is an ACC problem — the lack of a conference network and the revenue that brings in. The ACC Network won’t come fully online until 2019, and nearly everyone thinks it won’t bring in the revenue that the SEC Network and Big Ten Network bring in. But the ACC Network will further increase athletic department revenue, as Virginia Tech approaches $100 million in athletics revenue.
Going back to the table, the lack of a Big 12 network and the relative lack of success of the Pac-12 Network shows up in revenue figures. Virginia Tech finishes ahead of three Big 12 schools (no network at all) and five Pac-12 schools (a less profitable network than the SEC and Big Ten).
Since we’re on the topic of conference networks, let’s examine some interesting data that is buried in the USA Today reports, Rights and Licensing income.
Rights and Licensing Income Per Conference
If you click on a school name in the USA Today database, you get some detailed numbers for the school, including a revenue column referred to as “Rights/Licensing.”
In the Methodology for the database, that column is explained:
“Rights/Licensing: Includes revenue for athletics from radio and television broadcasts, Internet and e-commerce rights received from institution-negotiated contracts, the NCAA and conference revenue-sharing arrangements; and revenue from corporate sponsorships, licensing, sales of advertisements, trademarks and royalties. Includes the value of in-kind products and services provided as part of a corporate sponsorship (e.g., equipment, apparel, soft drinks, water and isotonic products). Also includes revenue from food, concessions and parking.”
The Rights/Licensing figure for each school is heavily influenced by money received from the conference network. Knowing that the SEC and the Big Ten have killer networks, the Pac 12 has a flawed (so far) network, and the Big 12 and ACC have no network, how do the Rights/Licensing revenue figures compare?
2016 Rights/Licensing Revenue, Per-school Average
|SEC||$56.8 million||$66.3 million (Alabama)||$47.7 million (S. Carolina)|
|Big Ten||$49.6 million||$62.7 million (Michigan)||$20.1 million (Rutgers) *|
|Big 12||$47.5 million||$75.0 million (Texas)**||$38.5 million (Texas Tech)|
|Pac 12||$40.9 million||$48.7 million (Washington)||$35.2 million (Wash. State)|
|ACC||$35.3 million||$39.6 million (Virginia)||$31.6 million (GT)|
* In the Big Ten, the lowest number after Rutgers is Illinois with $44.4 million. The Big Ten average without Rutgers is $52 million.
** In the Big 12, Oklahoma is second with $55.1 million. The Big 12 average without Texas is $43.5 million.
Pay particular attention to the notes on Texas and Rutgers. Those schools throw off their conference averages significantly. Texas gets big revenue from the Longhorn Network, while Rutgers receives a much lower revenue share from the Big Ten Network than other schools in the conference.
Throwing out Texas and Rutgers, the average rights/licensing revenue per conference is:
- SEC: $56.8 million
- Big Ten: $52.0 million
- Big 12: $43.5 million
- Pac-12: $40.9 million
- ACC: $35.3 million
If the ACC Network generates just $5 million extra per school once it’s launched, it will help close the gap for ACC schools with the Pac-12 and get close to the Big 12 (all else being equal).
No one thinks that the ACC Network is going to be as lucrative as the BTN and SECN have been … but at least some of the gap will be closed.
What This Means for Virginia Tech
The enormous amount of money swimming around in some athletic departments these days means that a team national championship — in any sport — is going to be very, very difficult for Virginia Tech to achieve.
These days, schools with a ton of money are simply deciding that they want to win a national championship in a certain sport. Pick a sport, any sport. Then they’re throwing a ton of money at that sport, building the best facilities, and hiring the best coaches.
In September of 2010, for example, Penn State announced that they were upgrading their men’s hockey program to NCAA Division 1 status and adding women’s hockey, on the strength of an $88 million dollar donation (later upgraded to $102 million) from the Pegula family. That money was used to build a brand new facility, Pegula Ice Arena, and to fund the programs and hire coaches.
Those are the kinds of resources that schools around the country can throw at a given sport or program, and that’s extremely difficult to compete with.
People are always the most important resource, however, and Virginia Tech has some of the best in college athletics. Director of Athletics Whit Babcock and the head coaches he hires can compete with anyone in the country, if they have adequate resources. Virginia Tech doesn’t need a $150-$200 million athletic program (though they’ll take it). At some stage, there’s a point of diminishing returns, and more money doesn’t necessarily equal more success. You have to have the right people.
But the Hokies do need more resources than what they have now, and that’s why the Drive for 25 initiative and the creation of an ACC Network are the two biggest keys to continuing the growth and improvement of Virginia Tech athletics.
I wish I had more time to bring you more numbers from the USA Today database. I’d like to delve into the per-school donations, for example, and maybe I will in an article soon. Till then, I encourage you to poke around that database yourself. It’s very illuminating, and you can learn a lot about where the Hokies stand in the landscape of college athletics finances.
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