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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.


UniversityConferenceUniversity subsidyTotal operating revenuesProportion
UNLVMountain West$19,275,082$56,496,23334.1%
RutgersBig East$18,411,795$64,203,25528.7%
Central MichiganMAC$16,457,883$24,703,10166.6%
Eastern MichiganMAC$15,334,255$26,270,72158.4%
Western MichiganMAC$13,815,834$23,761,39358.1%
CincinnatiConference USA$13,457,464$40,920,89332.9%
HoustonConference USA$12,691,796$33,034,48338.4%
Alabama-BirminghamConference USA$10,519,032$24,273,96743.3%
Overall Average$3,732,991$52,091,3277.2%


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.