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A Look at Kentucky Football Funding


Turn on any talk radio show (for instance, KSR) in Kentucky talking UK football and chances are that at some point you will hear someone say, “the University has to INVEST in football!” The refrain is familiar but the message seems to have a new sense of urgency in this year of potential change around the program. The issue of UK football funding is a complicated one that involves many entities ranging from the UK Athletics Program, to the University President to the Board of Trustees to the Kentucky Legislature. We have attempted to unpack some of those issues on this site and on the radio over the past year and to be fair, it is complicated.

What Kentucky needs more than anything is a dramatic facilities upgrade at Commonwealth Stadium Depending on who you ask, the cost of such a change could be upwards of $100 million dollars. For the last couple of years, requests for bonding capabilities to allow such a project have died in the state legislature, usually in the Kentucky Senate. This Spring, Senate President David Williams came on KSR and said that if the University were to give a detailed proposal for bonding authority that included such a figure for a football upgrade, he could forsee approving it. Now the ball is in UK’s court to come up with such a request and for the University President to approve it.

But as we wait for that moment, what is being done with the revenue that is being generated now? Les Johns of the Kentucky Kernel deals with that question today in this article in the student newspaper. Johns researches some numbers and finds that, not surprisingly, UK football drives the revenue of the Athletics program as a whole:


Revenue: $27.6 million
Expenses: $9.5 million

Profit: $18.1 million

That is a tremendous profit for a program that last season did not even make a Bowl game. UK basketball, the most successful program in America, doesn’t even generate such a profit:


Revenue: $20.8 million
Expenses: $12.6 million

Profit: $8.2 million

Every other sport besides these two lose money at Kentucky. And it is thus clear that Kentucky’s Athletics program as a whole requires significant revenue generated by football. But how much of that money generated is invested back in the program? Johns goes on to look at the increase in money generated by UK football over the last 4 years:


2008-2009: $20 million
2012-2013: $29.6 million

Due primarily to new SEC football television contracts, Kentucky has been able to add $9.6 million in revenue per year. However in that time, the budgeted expenses for the program only grew by $1.05 million. That means that UK football has only kept 10.9% of the new revenue it has generated in the last four years.

Compare that to basketball, where Kentucky now generates $18.1 million in revenue as opposed to $14.3 million four years ago. Of that $3.8 million in additional funds, UK basketball has kept $2.97 million, or 77% of the overall money…a much more dramatic help than what football has received.

The entirety of the Johns article is worth reading, as it showcases a great deal about the situation that UK football is currently in at this time (and it is the first of four parts). One comes away from this first look at the numbers with this conclusion. Systematic, major adjustments in UK football investment require a significant change by many people in UK and Ky State Legislative positions. But in the short term, it would probably help the UK football program if some of the the revenue it has added to the University athletics program as a whole over the last few years, were to be expended back on itself.

Article written by Matt Jones

42 Comments for A Look at Kentucky Football Funding

  1. Rem08
    3:58 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Damn title 9…

  2. SECsports
    4:00 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Rack. Great write up, Matt. Also great work by the college boy.

  3. Ryan YMCB
    4:02 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    The old adage “It takes money to make money” holds true.

  4. Roland
    4:03 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    The Golden Goose is being short changed.

  5. JaredCarterIsMyHomeboy
    4:03 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Why do we care so much about sports, and not investing the money in something like making movies, throwing giant concerts, hiring drag queens to go head to head in drag races. Or even better yet, lets invest the money in making a giant beer company.

  6. BallsInTheirCourt
    4:05 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    This informaiton is what get’s lost in the shuffle. The bonding issue is key. UK needs a recruiting room, better on campus facilities for the fooball players to live in and a major upgrade to Commonwealth. Once all of these things are addressed you can then hire a quality coach. Until then you are going to get Hal Mumme, Guy Morris, Rich Brooks and Joker Phillips. If I did not have a core group I tailgated with I would have abandoned this season.

  7. nawlij
    4:06 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Title IX has NOTHING to do with this. UK, according to the athletics budget and meeting notes, has 22 scholarship sports, more than any other SEC school. Funds from football are diluted over too many sports and to coaches who are paid more than market value….****ahem****Mitchell…If the football program could get another $500k-$1MM for coaches salaries, good assitants could be hired instead of people like Minter. Minter makes $325k per year…top flight SEC DC’s make between $800k and $1MM…that type of salary discrepency provides exactly what the university is getting in on the field performance, or lack thereof…

  8. notv
    4:07 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Compare football expense on a 9.5 mil budget with basketball expense on a 12.5 mil budget for the really problematic part of the equation.

    85 scholarships plus lots of coaches. Travel and expenses for all of those guys. Gear for all of those guys. Facilities for all of those guys. Etc.

    13 scholarships plus few coaches. Sure, they travel more often, and travel further away to play (usually). Education costs are still the same. They work out the same (but in STYLE!). They eat the same (ok, maybe less than Mister Cobble). But, proportionately, we are spending nearly a million dollars per year per scholarship player in basketball.

    In comparison, UK is spending around $11,000 per scholarship football player.

  9. JBR
    4:07 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Look, we all know that there are many problems with the program…and more money needs to be spent. This is a good summary of that. But you if you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig. Joker cannot coach. Period. It is painfully obvious each week. If we switched players with Alabama…I mean the full roster…and put them in our uniforms with our coaching staff…they MIGHT be a top 25 team. Yes, Joker is that bad. People greatly underestimate in football that heart, desire, aggression, and that will to win. It is paramount in football, and Joker sucks that right out of players.

  10. SalsaKat
    4:08 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    What I wonder is, does the $20.8M figure include the checks written by big-pocket boosters with “basketball” written in the memo line, or just the money brought in through ticket sales, TV rights, etc.? I suspect the official numbers don’t include earmarked private donations (e.g. the money for the Wildcat Coal Lodge), which would probably tell a very different story if it were included.

    So football cleared $18.1M, basketball cleared $8.2M, non-revenue-generating sports ate $11.6M, what happened to the remaining $14.7M? Perhaps the future installments of the article series will address that. I’d like to think that it was being saved toward future football facility upgrades, but I’m probably wrong. In addition to ignorant about all this, which I’ll freely admit.

  11. SalsaKat
    4:11 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Oh, and how are K-Fund donations counted in this? They are not sport-specific and are required for both football and basketball season tickets (most, anyway). Is that number applied to football, basketball, distributed evenly, or not included here?

  12. playersfan
    4:16 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    The key to winning is not money. I have heard all the excuses, can’t recruit in KY, need facilities, etc etc. The total difference in the WKU game was coaching. Their coach was coaching, encouraging, interacting with the players, our coach was pacing the sidelines shaking his head, which is not too motivating. Secondly, their favorite play is not a pass behind the line of scrimmage, or 2 yards down field. Thirdly, we should be rating WR’s on whether they can catch the ball, not just how they can run routes.

  13. catscatscats
    4:17 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    “expended back on itself” at the expense of the nonprofitable programs. thats ok if everyone is willing to sacrifice those programs. baseball, tennis, diving, swimming, soccer, on and on. are you willing? i am not. barnfart will not spend anymore on football when it is making money and losing. Kentucky football is a social event anyway.

  14. UKBlue
    4:18 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    A scary thing is how many UK fans don’t understand any of this, and think there is some magic pot of money out there UK can just tap into.

    I can see this way of thinking happening at UK: Why put a bunch of money into football, we’re going to get our share of the TV money even if we lose every game, so why not just put that money into other programs.

  15. CaneTurkey
    4:18 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    It’s crazy that the football program has only retained %11 of the revenue it generated in the last four years. It will never happen, but I’d like to see 5 or 6 non-revenue sports eliminated so the football team could utilize more of the profits it brings in. Capital One Cup be damned.

  16. SteveM
    4:18 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    UK fans sit and stew and talk about how hard it is to raise money while the football program is going to hell, while Tom Jurich at UoL sits backs and rakes in millions from the new Yum Center and his football players enjoy a new stadium as well. Woe is us. Wait…maybe if we got a competent AD who knew how to raise money maybe we would be in a lot better shape.

  17. UKBlue
    4:24 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    12 You could have Vince Lombardi coaching UK, if you don’t have the quality of players, the facilities to attract those players, and the money to build those facilities, then it’s irrelevant if you have a great coach.

    Why do think UK has great facilities for basketball, to attract elite players & keep a coach like Cal.

  18. Mitch Barnfart
    4:26 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    You people need to understand the great importance the state holds in our rifle team, girls volleyball and girls water polo teams. These coaches also need to make $400k a year and we are looking at adding a new womens badmitten team. Once again thanks for coming to the football games and rooting on the Cats!I’m sure we will beat whoever it is we are playing this week.

  19. SteveMIsWrong
    4:27 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Your information is flawed! Liquor sales and sponsorships have allot to do with that and I am very glad that element does not exist in the SEC. When U of L goes to the Big12 that ride is over. Check the stats on private donations to each and UK is ahead of the game.

  20. UKBlue
    4:28 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    16 A lot of the money raised at UL came from Owsley Brown Frazier

  21. Roland
    4:33 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    If you don’t feed the Golden goose, it will die. Right now it is the in the emergency room suffering from malnutrion.

  22. bart Edwards
    5:05 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    The article is hopelessly naive in failing to recognize the monies the basketball program generates in sales of merchandise all across the country, where UK was Number 3 nationally this past year. Almost all of that is attributable to sales generated by UK basketball, not the rifle team or the cheerleaders (both national championship programs), and certainly not by football. When you add those numbers in, the basketball program is getting back only about 18% of what it generates.
    If you think the problem at UK is facilities, you were not here for the Rich Brooks years, nor have you seen what Duke basketball has done over the past twenty years in a seventy year old auditorium with no air conditioning. Joker has to go.

  23. Joe
    5:06 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    The football coaching staff isn’t worth throwing money into. What have they done to earn it? Making more money does not make you coach better. If/when the staff shows they are worth it, then they should be compensated. That would be after Joker and his Riddlers are gone.

  24. bart Edwards
    5:07 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    17, go to school on Rich Brooks and Coach K. You are not a stuent of the sport if you really believe that.

  25. Mitch B
    5:11 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    The revenue brought in by UK football is more then the entire budget of WKU yet WKU were just able to rebuild their stadium (yet it still doesn’t compare to commonwealth) and Willie’s base salary is more the jokers… Investing shows results no matter where you start from.

  26. boomdaddy
    5:13 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    If I were on the board of directors, I would fire Mitch. That would save some money right away. it might be protested by the non revenue sports, but it would be what is best for the football program.

  27. BigBlueFever
    5:20 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    If other schools like Boise St can have a winning program why can’t UK?

  28. Iknowthepriblem
    5:33 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    The problem:

    M I t c h B a r n h a r t

    He is only worried about #1. Mitch

    No one cares about all these other leach sports but Mitch
    Because he wants his image to be one of improvement even though it’s canabolizing the rev source

    Fire this joker

    Focus on the revenue streams first once they are solid then and only then branch out

    He sucks man!!!!

  29. SECsports
    5:42 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Outside of the Calipari hire, why exactly does Mitch Barnhart get a free pass as an “SEC AD”?

    Being an AD in the SEC is realistically all about what you’ve done to build your school’s football program. Over the last 10 years, one could make a VERY strong case that no school has done less with regards to building and investing into it’s football program in the SEC than UK.

    As an SEC AD, how could you sleep at night knowing how bad you are short changing your football program? You’re simply not even giving the a fighter’s chance, and you know it, Mitch. You know it.

    Luckily, the fans now have access to information like this article. They see how little you truly care about acting like an SEC AD. As a result, the people are tired of your charade and are no longer buying tickets. I’ve NEVER been more proud of the UK fan base than I am at this current time. The people have finally seen behind the curtain.

    Simply put, Mitch Barnhart has failed the UK fanbase in his investment and management decisions in how to lead UK Football. Why do you people continue to give him a free pass in that regard? Why?

  30. lonnieb
    5:49 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink


    YES SIR…..

    If you look at rivals or any recruiting services UK has had better recruiting classes than boise st 6 out last 7 years……
    Someone mentioned on CBS blog and I went and looked it up. We get decent players….we have just had issues with schemes and developments. Im not being a dick here, but minter defense seems out of position a lot or we have a LB chasing a slot across the field. And we never seem to blitz. I have actually felt better about the offense this year. It should be good for a while with max and towles, unless towles transfers.

    Somebody said this on here a few weeks back and it stuck with me and I agree…..
    ” If you have a stud QB you got a legit shot to consistently compete. Maybe not with BAma and LSu, but with everyone else. Couch, woodson, even Jo lo was pretty legit. I think Max and Towles are gonna be legit. I know hindsight and all is bs, but if this years team had last years defense we would be 3-0

  31. shinny
    5:54 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Reach for the man who loves kentucky!
    Reach for the man that knows what to do with Towles-Smith-Young receivers!
    Reach for the man that knows how to build a program!
    Reach for a man with a brillant football mind!
    Reach for a man that can recruit
    Reach for a man that would love the challenge of the sec
    Reach for a man that would leave his present job for UK

  32. Bear Bryant's Ghost
    5:55 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Matt, You say, “What Kentucky needs more than anything is a dramatic facilities upgrade…” I say you couldn’t be more wrong. A. At this point it would only be lipstick on a pig. B. An upgrade with current football revenue woes is unsound and uncalled for.
    What Kentucky needs more than anything is a “CULTURE CHANGE”! Right now we have a culture of losing. Many of our fans willingly accept the notion that we just can’t compete in the SEC (in my best whiny voice). Until our fan base, INCLUDING YOU, not only reject the notion of 6-5 being acceptable, but insist on being competitive with the upper echelon of the conference, we are going to continue getting just what we’ve got.
    We just got beat by a team in it’s third year of BCS football. We are consistently being out recruited by VANDERBILT!!! Until a few years ago, South Carolina was our bitch! Now we worry that they’ll run up the score on us. No one who cares a whit about UK Football should be OK with that. We can compete! WKU is proof of that! We can compete! Vanderbilt is proof of that! We can Compete! South Carolina is proof of that! Until you and everyone else in this fan base is willing to stand up, grow a pair and demand the best, we will continue to get exactly what we deserve. But don’t tell me we can’t compete! I know better! And money is NOT the answer – unless we’re throwing it at a coach.

  33. shinny
    6:33 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    You are so right #32. By the way Washington State had their first opening day sellout in years. Since their capacity is just under 34,000 anybody doubt LEACH doesn’t want to come play Big Boy SEC football. Turn the sirens back on get it done!!!

  34. NL
    6:35 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    ALL YOU JOKER HATERS…Joker is simply a symptom of a problem. This article explains the problem. It is easy to hate the symptom, but until we address the root of the issue, the symptom isn’t going to go away. That’s why we haven’t been good for 60 years! WAKE UP!

  35. WERUK
    7:47 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    7. Matthew Mitchell is worth every penny we pay him. Might be one of the Top 10 coaches in the Nation right now

  36. FedUp
    8:01 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    What are the projected costs of the recruiting room UK football wants. If you can put $7 million in soccer, and build a new softball stadium, do not say UK does not have the money to add this for football.

  37. Got CAL?
    8:27 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    #35 I like Mitchell, but there is no way UK (which loses alot of money on women basketball), should pay that much for a coach.

  38. UK1983
    8:35 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    read this article for some perspective on Kentucky athletics vs. UGA athletics.

  39. The Ed
    8:50 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Great points Matt… we talked about this before. Even before Oregon got the glitzy uniforms, they were making strides as a non-traditinoal football school with bold coaching hires in a stacked division. It IS possible to create a program based on not being a traditional powerhouse. Just look to the recent success of an Oregon, Boise St., Stanford, etc. Yes, contributing $$ to better facilities wouldn’t hurt, as it’s an investment towards future success. The question lies in whether or not we have the right person leading the charge; we’re not even proving ourselves to be a stepping stone for a future coach’s success. There is a great challenge for a head coach to come here: play in the best division in college football, make a program that is traditionally basketball stronger at football and vice versa (it is possible to be a great major 2 sport school–just look at Florida, Ohio st., Texas, Wisconsin etc. as examples).

    If we have a leader we can get behind, the facilities and the $$ support will follow. I’d love to at least see a 10-win UK football team before I die.

  40. Yabba
    10:45 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Look at what the other SEC schools make from football. UK hasn’t even scratched the surface of what they could potentially make from football. We’re talking 20-30 million more than they make now. Building up the football program is the biggest no brainer decision ever.

  41. ReedyCreekBuc
    3:40 am September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Allen, Texas just spent $60 million on a new high school stadium. Surely we can come up with $100 million!

  42. putinrichie
    6:16 am September 19, 2012 Permalink

    12 – 100% Disagree. Money is extremely relevant. To land the kind of coach that you want and get the kind of assistants who can recruit SEC talent, you need money. I’m sorry but WKU is an awful example. Your concept may apply to mid-majors like Boise State or a school like WKU, but its different in the SEC. You can’t survive in the SEC when you pay your coaches and their assistants less than the majority of the conference. You also can’t compete when you have a major need for a facilities upgrades.