Sunday, September 4, 2016

College sports: The rich get richer and students pay for also-rans

Posted By on Sun, Sep 4, 2016 at 3:14 PM

click to enlarge BIG BUSINESS: Sports pays its own way for most in the Power Five, including Arkansas.
  • BIG BUSINESS: Sports pays its own way for most in the Power Five, including Arkansas.

To open the football season, ESPN has an Outside the Lines analysis of college athletic spending and it won't surprise anyone who's been paying attention.

The nation's richest athletic departments — those in the Power Five conferences — pulled n a record $6 billion last year, nearly $4 billion more than all other schools combined, according to an Outside the Lines analysis of NCAA data.

The gulf between college sports' haves and have-nots has never been greater.Powered by multimillion-dollar media rights contracts and rising ticket-sales revenue, the richest schools have spent aggressively: on private jets, on campus perks like barber shops and bowling alleys, on biometric gadgets for athletes, and on five-star hotel stays during travel. They've also hired a plethora of athletic department support staffers who earn six-figure salaries and sometimes have obscure job titles such as "horticulturalist" and "museum curator." 

To keep up, smaller conference schools — dubbed the Group of Five — are spending, too, but from different sources: Those schools have increasingly shifted hundreds of millions of dollars from students, taxpayers and other university programs into their athletic programs to do so, the analysis shows.
Arkansas provides an example.

The University of Arkansas is in the SEC, a Power Five conference. It does not draw on state aid or student fees, but relies on ticket sales, private contributions and TV and marketing contracts. (The UA brand is invaluable in this, of course, not to mention the campus ground the teams use.) The state's second biggest athletic spender, Arkansas State University, lags far behind and subsidizes athletics with state and student money.

According to ESPN data, UA had athletic revenue of $114 million in 2015 against $66 million in 2008, about a 72 percent increase

ASU rose from $8.4 million in 2008 to $29.2 million in 2015, nearly a 250 percent increase. 

Where UA got no state or student fee money in 2015, ASU was reported to have received about $2 million in state money, $4.5 million in student fees and more than $7 million in university general fund subsidy toward athletic costs in 2015. Where Arkansas got more than $61 million from NCAA, SEC and marketing distributions, ASU got about $1.7 million.

This page provides a search for college expenditures, both total and by sport.

A friend who sends along this information notes that, counting all schools, college athletics produce more revenue than Major League Baseball  (about $9.5 billion in 2015, Forbes says). And the players get no salaries. Most of them get free classes, meals and dorm rooms. The coaches do a little better. Which reminds me: Saw a little snark on Twitter yesterday about Belk department store ads featuring Razorback coach Bret Bielema, who's paid about $4 million a year. The snark was on account of Arkansas being home to Dillard Department Stores.  Maybe, like me, Bielema likes Belk for its in-store supply of large-size men's clothes.

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