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College Athletic Department Subsidies

ESPN has a new data tool that allows people to obtain detailed expense and revenue data for many major college athletic programs.  Here is the link.  Here is the disclaimer at the bottom of the table for 2010 data.

The information comes from detailed financial disclosure forms that athletic departments submit annually to the NCAA and federal government. ESPN requested the forms from all 120 Division I colleges in the Football Bowl Subdivision under state and federal public records laws. Private colleges and others not subject to those laws declined to release their forms. In those cases, ESPN filled in some of the blanks using financial information that public and private schools are required to provide to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education or the IRS.

I created a table showing the schools with the top 10 university subsidies, the subsidy amount, the total operating revenues, and the subsidy as a proportion of revenues.  Note the prevalence of MAC and Conference USA schools in the top 10.


University Conference University subsidy Total operating revenues Proportion
UNLV Mountain West $19,275,082 $56,496,233 34.1%
Rutgers Big East $18,411,795 $64,203,255 28.7%
Central Michigan MAC $16,457,883 $24,703,101 66.6%
Eastern Michigan MAC $15,334,255 $26,270,721 58.4%
Western Michigan MAC $13,815,834 $23,761,393 58.1%
Cincinnati Conference USA $13,457,464 $40,920,893 32.9%
Houston Conference USA $12,691,796 $33,034,483 38.4%
Wyoming WAC $12,153,845 $26,979,594 45.0%
Alabama-Birmingham Conference USA $10,519,032 $24,273,967 43.3%
Buffalo MAC $10,033,178 $25,385,009 39.5%
Overall Average $3,732,991 $52,091,327 7.2%


Given that UNLV, for example, is probably going to fire tenured faculty to deal with what amounts to a "fiscal collapse", I find it hard to believe the UNLV athletic department enhances the value of the school by at least $19.275 million.