The Cost of NCAA DI Athletics

Unless you’ve been a college administrator or coach for many years, I think it can be hard to understand/appreciate how much athletics (and I’m only talking NCAA DI in this post) can cost from financial standpoint. On occasion, I’ll hear friends talking about how much money the big football schools “rake in” during the season. Yes, the big-time football schools (FBS) generate some impressive numbers, but what most people don’t realize is how much it costs to maintain these teams and keep them competing at the top of the nation. Here are some shocking numbers I attained from the NCAA's report on Revenues & Expenses for 2004-2010:

Net Operating Results – NCAA DI 2010 (Median Values)

Football Bowl Subdivision:
Total Generated Revenues $35,336,000
Total Expenses $46,688,000
Median Net Generated Revenue ($9,446,000)
Division I without Football:
Total Generated Revenues $1,993,000
Total Expenses $11,562,000
Median Net Generated Revenue ($8,597,000)

Total Revenues – NCAA DI 2010

Football Bowl Subdivision:
Largest Reported $143,555,000
Median $48,298,000
Division I without Football:
Largest Reported $32,098,000
Median $11,077,00

Additionally, there are an average of 333 athletes participating in athletics at FBS schools. At these institutions the median expense per male athlete is $61,000 per year. For females the expense is a paltry $29,000 per year.

In contrast, at D-I schools without football there are an average of 176 athletes participating in athletics with an average of $21,000/year spent on men and $20,000 spent on women.

If you’ve never seen these numbers, I think it serves as a slap in the face by the reality that is the big business of college athletics.

It’s also pretty easy to see why it is so difficult for non-football schools to compete with the big boys on a national level in all the other sports.

In the end, the lack of money is why it is so impressive when a school like George Mason makes it to the top 25 national ranking for men’s basketball or when a school like VCU blows through the NCAA Tournament bracket. Ohio State (who, by the way, has the largest athletics budget in the country) should NEVER, EVER lose to a school like a Mason or a VCU whose budgets pale in comparison (we’re talking in the neighborhood of $120 MILLION less).

Fortunately, there is still a lot of heart and love in athletics and that can be worth more than money. So, while I LOVE my alma mater Virginia Tech, the longer I work with the other coaches and athletes at Mason, the more and more I appreciate the challenges and rewards that come from working with less and achieving more. Go Patriots!