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Spending on Sports Up at High-Profile Colleges

April 2, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

The country's top college sports programs haven't been faring as well as you'd think when it comes to bringing revenue in to their respective schools. With the close of March Madness upon us, USA Today decided to release a data analysis looking at the finances behind some of the most high-profile college athletic programs. And it seems that the schools are keeping their sports programs afloat by tapping into student fees and other general funds.

According to USA Today, more than half of the athletic departments at public schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) were subsidized by at least 26 percent last year. Those figures are up from 20 percent in 2005, or an additional $198 million if you account for inflation. That means athletic programs are getting subsidized by student fees and whatever general funds schools have set up to cover budget shortfalls. The analysis also shows that spending on athletics has increased, despite more of a reliance on outside funding to cover the costs of sports funding in the past year compared to the previous four years.

Why the increase in athletic expenses? Inflation could be one culprit. Drops in ticket sales, declining endowments and state appropriations overall, and general overspending all contribute to rising costs. Many of the big programs also embarked on expensive capital campaigns over the last few years, and those costs are catching up to them. According to USA Today, the number of schools that have sports programs that pay for themselves - via ticket sales and general marketing revenue, for example - fell from 25 to 14 schools over the last year.

Another story published in USA Today as part of their look at sports programs' finances looks at rising coaches' salaries as another factor. Although sports program budgets have shrunk over the last year, coaches' salaries have not shrunk alongside those figures. The country's top coaches, who had been making upwards of $2 million annually just two years ago, now make around $4 million. (Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University and Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville both made more than $4 million this season.) Coaches' compensation has grown so much that it has become the number one expense for college sports programs, replacing athletic scholarships. Last year, Division I schools spent more than $1 billion on coaches' salaries.


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