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Bowl-bound schools spend millions on football
Question of the Day
The numbers grow every year: 35 bowl games, 70 teams _ the morphing of what was once a New Year’s Day tradition into one that kicks off in mid-December and finishes closer to Martin Luther King Day than Jan. 1.
And if those bowl-season stats seem bloated, try this: Ohio State and Alabama each spend more than $31 million a year to run their football programs, while nine other teams closing out the season at one of those 35 bowl games spend $20 million plus.
The cheapest bowl-bound program? That would be Troy, winner of the New Orleans Bowl on the first postseason weekend, at just a shade over $5 million. That’s nearly $23 million less than they spend an hour away at top-ranked Auburn, where the Tigers are playing for the national title this season. Auburn’s opponent in the BCS game, Oregon, spends $18 million _ 16th among the bowl-bound schools.
The statistics come from the Department of Education, which has required universities to submit the amount they spend on sports since 2000 as part of the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act. With that information, the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool was created. And while the database comes with disclaimers and caveats stating that there are no hard-and-fast guidelines as to what schools count under the term “expenses” and “revenue,” these are the numbers they report to the federal government.
After OSU ($31.7 million) and ‘Bama ($31.1 million), the rest of top five biggest spenders include Notre Dame, Auburn and LSU, according to the database. Most schools’ figures were for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Broken down on a per-student basis, the Irish spend the most, the database says. Their trip to the Sun Bowl is coming at a price of $3,531 for each of Notre Dame’s 8,351 undergraduates _ an overall budget of $29.4 million _ while TCU spends $2,822 per student to run its Rose Bowl-bound football program.
For all the money they fork out, at least the TCUs and LSUs of the world are going somewhere this season. Texas, last year’s national runner-up, spent $25.1 million and is sitting home for New Year’s after going 5-7.
Boise State, meanwhile, looks like a bargain. The underdog Broncos stayed in contention for the national title all year with a program that spends a fraction of what the big boys do. The tab: $6.85 million for an average of $564 a student for a program that ended up winning the MAACO Bowl this year.
While football also brings in millions, the spending on the sport has given plenty of ammunition to critics of big-time college sports.
“It’s a sad commentary given the general conditions out there: 10 percent unemployment, economic stagnation,” said Tom Palaima, the University of Texas’ representative on the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, a group that believes spending on sports has gotten out of hand. “You look at $1,500 per capita (at Auburn), that’s a large outlay. I just don’t see how it can be justified given that most of the revenues will still end up on the sports side of the ledger.”
Indeed, the common refrain among many successful football programs is that they are self-sustaining. In fact, all but three of the bowl-bound programs reported operating at even or in the black.
In most cases, that allows the football programs _ most commonly the biggest money makers in athletic programs _ to support all the other sports, which in many cases operate at a loss. In cases where there’s more money left over, some of that is often given to the university, which can use it wherever the need is greatest.
The Texas athletic program boasts that it sends back an average of around $1.5 million a year to the school. Its football program netted a whopping $68 million in the 12-month period ending Aug. 31.
At Florida, football spent $24.4 million and brought in $68.7 million for a net profit of $44.2 million. The program will give $6 million to the university in the 2010-11 fiscal year to bring the total to $61.1 million since 1990.
“At this place, your main revenue source is football, so you’re going to spend money necessary to sustain a successful football program,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. “If we go from playing in front of 90,000 people to playing in front of 60,000 people, you’re talking about cutting sports, scholarships, personnel, and nobody wants to see that happen.”
By Orrin G. Hatch
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