Editor’s Note: This is the second year that we have written an article recapping Power 5 finances in college athletics. (Here’s last year’s article.)
The USA Today maintains a complete, detailed database of college athletics financial data that they update yearly in mid/late July with financial figures from the previous academic year. The July 2018 update, for example, includes 2016-17 academic year data. Digging into the data is an interesting exercise, and this is our look at 2017 finances.
Notes About 2017 Power 5 Finances Data
The USA Today maintains a huge database of all schools that publicly report revenue and expenses. 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 2017, 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.”
Sponsored by the Drive for 25: The Hokie Club’s Drive for 25 initiative seeks to increase membership in the Hokie Club to 25,000 members in order to provide student-athletes with scholarships for a Virginia Tech education, as well as the resources necessary to compete athletically at the highest levels.Click here to join us today!
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. We lump Notre Dame in there as well, but they’re private, so they don’t report.
|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|
Note that seven of the ACC’s 15 schools aren’t included in the database. That’s more than all other Power 5 conferences combined. So 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.
2017 Power 5 Finances, All In One Table
Here’s a listing of Power 5 finances for all schools in one table, ranked by total revenue (sort of; see the note after the table).
2017 Power 5 Finances (per USA Today data)
|3||Ohio State||Big Ten||$185,409,602||$173,507,435||$11,902,167|
|14||Penn State||Big Ten||$144,017,055||$138,724,055||$5,293,000|
|21||Michigan State||Big Ten||$126,021,377||$117,506,272||$8,515,105|
|27||West Virginia||Big 12||$110,565,870||$89,196,193||$21,369,677|
|40||Oklahoma State||Big 12||$91,644,865||$89,833,094||$1,811,771|
|43||Texas Tech||Big 12||$88,804,476||$86,984,083||$1,820,393|
|45||Kansas State||Big 12||$86,081,528||$73,970,354||$12,111,174|
|47||North Carolina State||ACC||$83,741,572||$86,924,779||($3,183,207)|
|50||Iowa State||Big 12||$82,659,447||$82,565,176||$94,271|
Note: There are 52 schools in the table, but the rankings go to 53. This is because one non-Power 5 school is included in the top 53 (but not included in the table): No. 49 UConn (AAC), $83.3 million.
The previous year (FY 2016), Virginia Tech ranked No. 41 among all Power 5 schools in athletics revenue, and this year, the Hokies slip to No. 44. But there’s a caveat. Drilling down into the details, Virginia Tech’s contributions are reported as $15.8 million, yet we know that in 2016-17, the Hokie Club took in about $33 million in donations. That’s a difference of $17.2 million, and if reported, that would increase Virginia Tech’s total revenue to $104.6 million, vaulting the Hokies all the way to No. 29.
As Randy Jones has told us repeatedly in his annual financial reports, contributions are not reported until applied (spent). So the contribution amounts given in official financial reports are pretty much never going to match the donation figures you read in Hokie Club press releases.
In the next couple of years or so, Virginia Tech will embark on a $4.5 million expansion of the Merryman Center weight room and will also construct a $16.5 million Student-Athlete Performance Center, and Hokie Club funds will be spent on those projects at that time. Look for Virginia Tech’s reported contributions, and thus revenue, to jump considerably at that time, especially if both projects are built in the same fiscal year.
Here’s a look at average revenue, expenses, and profit/loss per conference:
|Conference||Ave. Revenue||Ave. Expenses||Profit/Loss|
|SEC||$142.0 million||$124.7 million||$17.3 million|
|Big Ten||$125.5 million||$122.3 million||$3.2 million|
|Big 12||$115.6 million||$107.1 million||$8.5 million|
|ACC||$102.5 million||$104.0 million||(-$1.5 million)|
|Pac 12||$98.3 million||$97.2 million||$1.1 million|
Breaking Down the Data
The USA Today data contains breakdowns per school for the following revenue items:
- Ticket Sales
- Student Fees
- School Funds
We’ve got a monstrous table containing all that detail for each school, but it’s so big that we had to put it on its own separate page, with wider margins. The neat thing about the master data table is that it includes all the categories listed above, and you can sort the table by multiple column headings.
Here’s where the Hokies rank in each of those categories listed above — remember, Virginia Tech is No. 44 among 52 listed schools in total revenue.
- Ticket Sales – $17.3 million, No. 35
- Contributions – $15.8 million, No. 43
- Rights/Licensing – $36.6 million, No. 48
- Student Fees – $8.9 million, No. 5
- School Funds – $2,663, No. 33 (Nos. 35 onward are $0)
Ticket sales are a relative bright spot for the Hokies, and their highest-ranking source of revenue (other than student fees, which we’ll get to in a moment).
If Virginia Tech’s full take of $33 million in Hokie Club donations were reported, Tech would be ranked No. 19 in that category.
As for (media) Rights and Licensing, insert an ACC Network rant here. That ground is well-covered, and we’ll add even more excruciating detail in a moment.
It’s very interesting to break down each of those categories by conference, so we’ll do that next.
Here are the top ten schools in ticket sales for FY2017 (2016 football season, 2016-17 basketball season):
- Texas (Big 12): $72.4 million*
- Ohio State (Big Ten): $61.5 million*
- Michigan (Big Ten): $55.3 million**
- Texas A&M (SEC): $47.4 million**
- Oklahoma (Big 12): $42.1 million*
- LSU (SEC): $41.8 million**
- Arkansas (SEC): $40.8 million
- Alabama (SEC): $37.6 million*
- Nebraska (Big Ten): $37.3 million*
- Tennessee (SEC): $36.8 million*
- No. 35: Virginia Tech $17.3 million
* 7 home football games (plus, in some cases, a neutral site game)
** 8 home football games (plus, in some cases, a neutral site game)
That’s five SEC schools, three Big Ten schools, and two Big 12 schools in the top ten.
Here are the average ticket sales for each of the Power 5 conferences:
|Conference||Ave. Tix Sales||Max||Min|
|SEC||$31.5 million||Texas A&M ($47.5m)||Miss. State ($15.8m)|
|Big Ten||$27.9 million||Ohio State ($61.6m)||Purdue ($9.2m)|
|Big 12||$26.9 million||Texas ($72.5m)||Texas Tech ($12m)|
|ACC||$20.9 million||Louisville ($29.5m)||GT ($11.8m)|
|Pac 12||$16.6 million||Oregon ($26.5m)||Wash. State ($7.6m)|
Here are the top ten in donations for FY2017. This is a class of revenue that can swing wildly from year to year, as noted above.
- Texas A&M (SEC): $93.1 million
- Oregon (Pac 12): $55.7 million
- Georgia (SEC): $54.8 million
- Texas (Big 12): $46.0 million
- Oklahoma (Big 12): $45.5 million
- Florida (SEC): $45.1 million
- Florida State (ACC): $41.5 million
- Louisville (ACC): $39.3 million
- Michigan (Big Ten): $38.9 million
- South Carolina (SEC): $38.8 million
- No. 43 Virginia Tech: $15.8 million
That’s a lot of cheese being thrown around. Four SEC schools, two ACC schools, two Big 12 schools, and just one Pac 12 and Big Ten school each.
If the Hokies had reported their full $33 million in donations, Tech would have ranked No. 19 out of 52 schools reporting.
Here are the average donations for each of the Power 5 conferences:
|SEC||$38.3 million||Texas A&M ($93.1m)||Kentucky ($18.7m)|
|Big 12||$28.8 million||Texas ($46.0m)||OK State ($15.6m)|
|ACC||$25.5 million||FSU ($41.5m)||GT ($11.2m)|
|Big Ten||$25.1 million||Michigan ($38.9m)||Rutgers ($8.1m)|
|Pac 12||$17.3 million||Oregon ($55.7m)||Wash. State ($8.2m)|
The surprise there is the Big Ten being listed fourth, but — repeat after me — donations gyrate wildly from year to year. Also strange is seeing T. Boone Pickens U., Oklahoma State, listed last in the Big 12 with $15.8 million in donations. Just three years ago (FY 2014), their donations were listed at $37 million, and back in 2006, they reported a cool $211 million in donations — T. Boone money being spent on facilities, no doubt. The truth is that OK State can tap all kinds of money whenever they need it.
Grab a box of tissues, because this will bring you to tears. This category includes all kinds of revenue, such as “…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.”
Lately, this revenue has been pumped up for certain schools due to money flowing in from conference network deals — the Big Ten Network and the SEC Network — as well as ever-increasing media rights and even Texas’ Longhorn Network.
Speaking of Texas, here are the top ten schools in rights/licensing income:
- Texas (Big 12): $86.2 million
- Wisconsin (Big Ten): $72.9 million
- Kentucky (SEC): $72.7 million
- Michigan (Big Ten): $72.4 million
- Alabama (SEC): $68.8 million
- Ohio State (Big Ten): $67.2 million
- Tennessee (SEC): $64.6 million
- Auburn (SEC): $64.2 million
- Florida (SEC): $63.9 million
- LSU (SEC): $62.2 million
- No. 48 Virginia Tech: $36.6 million
That’s Texas, the outlier with its own network, followed by three Big Ten schools and six SEC schools.
Some quick notes:
- 9 of the top 13 schools are SEC schools.
- Out of the top 20 schools, 11 are SEC and 7 are Big Ten.
- Eight of the bottom 12 schools are ACC schools.
Once Rutgers, the last-place school overall (see the table below), starts receiving a full Big Ten media share, they’ll vault past all the ACC schools around them and out of the bottom 12.
I could go on and on, but you get my point. The ACC, as we all know, lags behind all other P5 conferences in rights/licensing revenue, due in large part to their inability to put together a network. Here are the averages by conference:
|SEC||$61.0 million||Kentucky ($72.7m)||Missouri ($50.1m)|
|Big Ten||$55.3 million||Wisconsin ($72.9m)||Rutgers ($25.4m)|
|Big 12||$50.8 million||Texas ($86.2m)||WVU ($42.5m)|
|Pac 12||$46.2 million||Oregon ($54.2m)||Wash. State ($38.0m)|
|ACC||$37.7 million||Louisville ($41.7m)||GT ($35.1m)|
When you dig down into student fees, you discover some interesting things.
The USA Today data goes back to 2005, and since 2005, eight schools that once reported income from student athletic fees no longer do so: Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Clemson, Indiana, and Mississippi State.
Two schools that did not report revenue from student athletic fees now do: Arizona State and Tennessee. The Vols reported $0 in 2005, but have reported exactly $1 million every year since then.
Drilling down into the numbers shows yet more weakness from the ACC, whose schools make more on average from student fees than any other conference, by a long shot.
Here are the top ten schools in student fee revenue:
- Virginia (ACC): $13.9 million
- Maryland (Big Ten): $12.0 million
- Rutgers (Big Ten): $11.8 million
- Arizona State (Pac 12): $10.8 million
- No. 5 Virginia Tech (ACC): $8.9 million
- Florida State (ACC): $8.4 million
- UNC (ACC): $7.0 million
- NC State (ACC): $6.6 million
- Utah (Pac 12): $6.1 million
- Georgia Tech (ACC): $5.4 million
Six of the top ten schools in student athletic fee revenue are from the ACC.
Here is average student fee revenue by conference:
|Conference||Ave. Student Fees||Max||Min|
|ACC||$6.5 million||Virginia ($13.9m)||Clemson ($0)|
|Pac 12||$2.6 million||AZ State ($10.8m)||Three with $0|
|Big Ten||$2.1 million||Maryland ($12.0m)||Nine with $0|
|Big 12||$1.75 million||WVU ($4.1m)||Two with $0|
|SEC||$1.0 million||Auburn ($4.4m)||Seven with $0|
Seven of eight ACC schools report student fee revenue. Only Clemson doesn’t report any revenue from student fees.
In the Pac 12, Arizona State reported $0 from 2005-2014, but has reported about $10 million each year since then. My guess is, that’s just a change in accounting, not a sudden implementation of huge student athletic fees.
The Big Ten averages are skewed greatly by Maryland ($12 million) and Rutgers ($11.8 million). Illinois is third with just $3.2 million, and nine of 13 Big Ten schools report $0.
This is a broad category that “includes both direct and indirect support from the university, including state funds, tuition, tuition waivers etc., as well as federal Work Study amounts for student workers employed by athletics department. It also includes the value of university-provided support such as administrative services, facilities and grounds maintenance, security, risk management, utilities, depreciation and debt service that is not charged to the athletics department.”
34 out of 52 schools report school funds amounts above zero, but the bottom two, No. 33 Virginia Tech ($2,663) and No. 34 NC State ($1,384) are negligible.
Here are the schools reporting the top ten highest amounts of school funds revenue, and it’s not a surprise to see who tops the list.
- Rutgers (Big Ten): $21.3 million
- Minnesota (Big Ten): $14.8 million
- Arizona State (Pac 12): $11.0 million
- Colorado (Pac 12): $10.9 million
- Arizona (Pac 12): $10.0 million
- Wisconsin (Big Ten): $9.2 million
- Alabama (SEC): $8.4 million
- Utah (Pac 12): $6.4 million
- Clemson (ACC): $5.5 million
- Louisville (ACC): $5.4 million
Seeing Clemson with $0 student fee revenue and $5.5 million school funds revenue makes me wonder if that’s just an accounting quirk, and the “school funds” are Clemson’s version of student fee revenue.
Rutgers is a mess. They rank last in the Big Ten in Contributions, Rights/Licensing, next to last in Ticket Sales, second in Student Fees, and first in School Funds. Their $96.8 million in revenue, which sounds impressive, includes $33.1 million from their students and their school. By contrast, Virginia Tech’s $87.4 million in revenue includes just $8.8 million from the students and school.
Here’s the average school funds per university, by conference.
|Conference||Ave. School Funds||Max||Min|
|Pac 12||$5.4 million||AZ State ($11.0m)||UCLA ($60,000)|
|Big Ten||$4.0 million||Rutgers ($21.3m)||Four with $0|
|ACC||$1.9 million||Clemson ($5.5m)||Two with $0|
|SEC||$1.7 million||Alabama ($8.4m)||Six with $0|
|Big 12||$518,000||Texas Tech ($2.5m)||Six with $0|
If you’re still with me, then you’re either an accountant or a non-accounting numbers wonk. Thank you for reading this far.
There aren’t really any over-arching conclusions to draw here. We know intuitively that the SEC and Big Ten in particular, with their huge stadiums, alumni bases, and fat TV contracts, make a lot of money. This just puts actual figures on it.
As I wrote last year, most of the factors that make Virginia Tech rank No. 44 out of 52 reporting schools in revenue are beyond fans’ control, but ticket sales and Hokie Club donations are two areas in which fans can make a difference. By buying tickets and joining the Drive for 25, fans can give Virginia Tech a boost.
Remember, to really drill down into all the numbers, check out our master 2017 Power 5 Finances master data table, which you can sort a lot of different ways to crunch the data.