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SEC Athletics Department Subsidies

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The USA Today came out with a study illustrating the subsidies that Division I athletics departments get from their universities. Those subsidies include student fees, payments from the school's general funds, and payments from state governments directly. As open records requests were how the paper got the data, private institutions are not included.

Here is how the various SEC schools are subsidized (or not), sorted by 2009-10 percentage of budget subsidized:

School '05-'06 Subsidy '09-'10 Subsidy Change '05-'06 Subsidy '09-'10 Subsidy Change
Tennessee 8% 12% 4% $6,480,226 $13,552,020 $7,071,794
Mississippi State 15% 12% -3% $4,223,164 $4,748,570 $525,406
Mississippi 9% 8% -1% $2,751,951 $3,520,515 $768,564
Auburn 1% 6% 5% $990,679 $5,261,604 $4,270,925
Alabama 4% 4% 0% $3,011,258 $4,980,000 $1,968,742
Florida 5% 4% -1% $4,248,846 $4,410,901 $162,055
Georgia 4% 4% 0% $3,236,262 $3,202,545 ($33,717)
South Carolina 2% 3% 1% $942,627 $2,146,293 $1,203,666
Arkansas 3% 2% -1% $1,777,474 $1,694,973 ($82,501)
Kentucky 1% 1% 0% $685,540 $738,194 $52,654
LSU 0% 0% 0% $0 $0 $0


LSU was one of just six schools not to receive any subsidies in the 2009-10 school year, and one of just two (Nebraska the other) not to receive any subsidies in either 2005-06 or 2009-10.

On the other end of the conference spectrum is Tennessee, whose subsidy grew between 2006 and 2010 more than the value of the 2006 subsidy itself. Auburn, Alabama, and South Carolina are the only other schools that saw their subsidies grow by more than a million dollars.

I'm really curious as to why Tennessee's figure is so high. It's the only SEC school in the top ten highest subsidies among BCS conference members. The rest of that list is largely Pac-10 and Big East schools, which isn't surprising given that those two conferences had the worst TV contracts across the years studied here.

Speaking of TV contracts, the SEC's monster deal came into effect between the two school years studied here. Only four schools saw their subsidies drop on a percentage basis (and only one by more than a percentage point), and only two saw their subsidies decrease in actual dollar amount. Despite that huge influx of cash from the new TV contract, eight of the eleven public SEC member schools are taking more subsidies now than they did before the deal went into effect.

That fact pokes a hole in the premise that adding a playoff in I-A will help solve all the budget problems at universities across the nation. It's pretty clear that any extra money that comes in is just going to go right back out. It will be spent on ever-increasing head coach salaries, ever-increasing assistant coach salaries, facilities upgrades, and unprofitable sports.

Of the 219 total schools examined, 181 (82.6%) had higher subsidies in 2009-10 versus 2005-06. That's remarkable considering that, besides big new TV contracts for some conferences, we had an economic meltdown in those intervening years. Budgets are getting slashed all over the place, but athletics subsidies are, in general, going up.

It's enough to make you wonder when exactly that economic day of reckoning for college athletics is coming.

Note: Kyle Veazey tweets that he's been told that for the 2011-12 school year, Mississippi State will only receive student fees money and not any other direct support as it has received in the past. It's more proof that Dan Mullen is good for business in Starkville.

I should also mention that most of these totals appear to be only money collected from student fees. While those can be controversial, they're typically voted on and approved by students themselves. In such cases, I'm not terribly bothered by them.


Commenter imhugeinjapan provided a link that has details on the Tennessee "subsidy." Only $1 million of it was actual money, collected from student fees that are "political in nature" and related to an interpretation of Title IX obligations. The rest is only on-paper accounting details, such as a depreciation charge of over $8 million. I'm not sure why that gets put on the school's NCAA's financial report in a category that could get construed as a subsidy, but there you have it.

Tennessee's athletics department annually runs a surplus, and it gave almost $7 million to the university in the 2009-10 school year. A million of that was to reimburse the student fees that it had collected. I had thought UT was one of the schools that made enough to donate money back to the general university, and it is.