Publisher's note: This post, by Bob Luebke, was originally published in the Civitas's online edition.
The Great Recession has led to greater scrutiny and tighter budgets across much of higher education. One area however that fails to reflect these trends is spending on college athletics. A recent story
(subscription may be required) in the Chronicle of Higher Education shows how at many schools, sports spending has outpaced revenue.
Here are a few interesting findings.
- The median athletics expenditure among a group of 200 Division I public universities rose by nearly 30 percent between 2010 and 2014
- 104 of 128 athletic departments in the NCAA's Football Bowl subdivision do not bring in enough money through ticket sales donations, or other outside revenue to offset their costs.
- The average deficit for the 104 programs is $16 million in 2014. The current deficit is more than twice what it was for programs that had existing deficits in 2004.
Notably the school with the largest increase in athletic spending (76.1 percent) over the past five years (2010 - 2014), was the University of North Carolina- Charlotte. Charlotte's football program began in 2013.
While football has certainly impacted UNC-Charlotte athletic spending. Coaching salaries, travel costs and stadium debt have all combined to drive up costs. Football did not create the deficit. The UNC-Charlotte Athletics Department has been running a growing budget deficit for the past five years. According to a recent study by the Chronicle of Higher Education and Huffington Post
, since 2010 student fees at UNC Charlotte have subsidized about 74 percent of all athletic spending.
Since 2010, UNC-Charlotte the athletic department expenses have climbed from $16 million a year to near $30 million. Revenue sources included $10 million donation to name the stadium, $15 million from seat licenses, ticket sales and other outside income. The department's major source of revenue however came from student fees. In 2004, UNC-Charlotte students paid $365 in Athletics Fees. In 2014-15, those same fees were $747.
Can the spending continue? It may be difficult. Legislation aimed at containing costs for UNC students was approved in the last legislative session. The state's new budget includes a provision limiting any future increases in student fees to 3 percent a year.
While Charlotte's enrollment is growing, Charlotte's share of its conference's television agreement, recently declined by about $900,000 a year
The dream of athletic glory for many mid-size institutions is elusive and expensive. More reasons why the marriage of athletics and academics is bad for colleges.