There is little more overrated to me in sports than discussing the “business” side of a particular sports organization’s bottom line. My usual retort to individuals like Louisville fans (who brag about their basketball program’s place as the most profitable in all of NCAA Division I) is “if it doesn’t happen on the court, why does it matter?” The purpose of making money is to better the product on the field. While making money surely helps that happen, until it happens on the field, it matters little to me.
That doesn’t however mean that there aren’t interesting facts to be gleaned from a look at college sports programs and their revenue. USA Today has created an impressive database of the NCAA school’s finances that is definitely worth a look. With it, you can see how much revenue each program brought in, how much they paid out in expenses and what percentage of their overall revenue comes from student subsidies. What you find is that (a) SEC programs make a ton of money and (b) they actually ask their students to contribute almost nothing to the athletics fund, a benefit that many other programs around the country do not give to their student body.
In the year 2011, Kentucky brought in $84.8 million in revenue and had $82.8 million in expenses. The greatest percentage of that comes from rights/merchandising and a breakdown of the UK numbers shows that the overall increase in revenue at UK (from $72 million in 2009 to $84.8 million in 2011) is due primarily to an increase in that department. Bottom line, when Billy left, we bought more gear. Kentucky athletics is nearly entirely self-supported and it is able to make budget every year, BUT unlike a few other SEC schools (such as LSU which operates on a $16 million annual profit), the profit isn’t great. This is, in part, why the bonding issue is so important for UK football as major renovations can only get completed with outside financial sources.
It is worth a look on a Monday night and for those of you with a business mind, there is much to be intrigued about. For everyone else, Amile Jefferson decides tomorrow.