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Division I college sports spending has reached out-of-sight proportions while academic spending remains stagnant, according to a new Knight Commission college sports database. A close look at the numbers raises questions about who or what is being subsidized by athletic cash-cows like football.

Launched in December, the database “compares trends in spending on core academic activities with spending on athletics in public Division I institutions” over a seven-year period (2005-11). Athletic spending per player “grew at a faster rate [as much as 12 times faster] than academic spending per student” at only three percent.

The Knight database showed the University of Minnesota’s instructional spending per full-time student grew 13 percent from $18,266 in 2005 to $20,688 in 2011, but athletic spending per player rose 78 percent from over $61,000 in 2005 to almost $110,000 in 2011. Meanwhile, U of M football spending per player in 2005 was just under $90,000 in 2005 and almost $200,000 in 2011 — a whopping 122 percent increase in seven years.

School alum Archie Givens told the MSR, “It’s an expensive proposition…to be a competitive football team in the country.” Then what about that “schools are all about education” rhetoric?

“I think in terms of what [football] brings to the university, and what it represents to the state in terms of pride and the competitiveness, influence, and national recruiting of non-student athletes to come to the university, I think it can be argued that it is well spent,” surmises Givens.

In reality, most if not all Division I schools spend more on football: The Big Ten median academic spending per student in 2010 was $19,225, but it was six times more (over $116,000) per athlete in 2010. By comparison, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has the highest median spending on sports (nearly $164,000 per student-athlete), over 12 times more than the $13,390 spent per student by their conference schools.

And then factor in the television money paid to the top five conferences by ESPN, CBS, Fox and BTN, an estimated $1 billion guaranteed annually and over $19.3 million annually going to each Big Ten school, including the U of M.

The MSR received upon request from U of M school officials their 2012 and 2013 revenue and expense reports. We examined football and five other sports: men’s basketball and men’s hockey; women’s hockey and basketball, and volleyball. (Spoiler alert: Gopher football brings in more money and spends more money than do any of the other five sports — and in some cases as much as the five other sports combined.)

For simplicity purposes, we rounded off the following figures to even thousands of dollars:

2012 revenues: Football, $32.9 million; men’s basketball, $16.1 million; men’s hockey, $7 million; women’s hockey, $1 million; women’s basketball, $612,000; volleyball, $242,000

2012 expenses: Football, $16.1 million; men’s basketball, $5 million; women’s basketball, $2.5 million; men’s hockey, $2.1 million; women’s hockey, $1.1 million; volleyball, $1 million

2013 revenues: Football, $36 million; men’s basketball, $14 million; men’s hockey, $5.9 million; women’s basketball and women’s hockey, $619,000 each; volleyball, $161,000

2013 expenses: Football, $20.8 million; men’s basketball, $6.5 million; women’s basketball, $2.5 million; men’s hockey, $2.3 million; women’s hockey, $1.33 million; volleyball, $1.31 million

Does this mean that today’s big-time institutions for higher learning are actually athletic cash cows, with football as the fat cats? Apparently so based on these numbers.

This shows that college sports, including our beloved Gophers, really is big business, with football acting like Godzilla as it out-generates and out-spends everyone in its athletic wake.

“I don’t think it’s out of line with other Big Ten or major football systems,” concludes Givens.

 

Next: Seems like everybody but the players get paid.  

For more analysis on college athletic spending, read “Another View Extra” on this week’s MSR website.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected] 

 
To see more stories by Charles Hallman stories click HERE

 

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