- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2013

About 12 percent of tuition and fees for Virginia’s public colleges and universities go toward funding athletics, and only football and basketball come close to generating enough revenue to break even.

Last year, Virginia’s athletic programs at its 15 public four-year colleges and universities generated 31 percent of the revenue needed to cover their expenses, with mandatory athletic fees imposed to make up the cost, according to a study released Monday by the state General Assembly’s investigative arm.

The athletic fees range from $267 per student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg to $2,067 per student at Longwood in Farmville — with an average of $1,185 at each school. For the upcoming school year, the cost of tuition, fees room and board for in-state students at Tech are listed at $19,105 and at Longwood $20,216.

More than 6,100 student athletes compete on 280 sports teams across the 15 schools, but only four generate revenue that exceeds their expenditures: the Virginia Tech and University of Virginia football and basketball teams.

In the 2011-12 school year, UVa. basketball brought in $621,000 more than it spent and Virginia Tech basketball netted $5.28 million. UVa. football, meanwhile, brought in $22.4 million and netted a $5.1 million surplus, with Virginia Tech football bringing in $38.4 million and making $13.7 million more than it spent.

Last year, Virginia students also paid $160 million in athletic fees, a 49 percent increase from the 2006-2007 school year. The report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission recommends that the board of visitors at each school require related fees to be listed on the tuition, fees and information pages of the schools’ websites.

Big-time sports schools are able to sustain their athletic costs with comparatively smaller student athletic fees. Out of Virginia Tech’s $70.7 million in revenues in 2011-12, 10 percent came from student fees, compared to about a quarter from ticket sales and distributions from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA and 40 percent from contributions, endowments, broadcast rights and other sources. Meanwhile, 88 percent of the $11.7 million Radford University spent on sports came from student fees.

Virginia, unlike some other states, does not allow general fund revenue to subsidize athletic programs. Virginia athletic programs also tend to spend more than other schools in comparable divisions, and spending has grown quicker than the national median rates between 2006-07 and 2011-12 for all but three Virginia Division I programs: UVa., Tech and the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.

Financial aid for athletes and salaries and spending on facilities accounted for more than three-quarters of the growth.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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