Inside Higher Ed reported that the nation’s largest college athletics programs are relying more than ever on institutional support to balance their budgets, according to the NCAA’s annual review of college athletics revenue and expenses. According to the report, only 14 programs from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division I-A) generated more revenues than expenses. This is down from 2006-07 and 2007-08, when the NCAA reported that 25 programs turned a profit. In the other two divisions within Division I, no athletics programs generated net revenues in 2009, and no Division I program without a football team (formerly Division I-AAA) has generated net revenues since 2005. However, to support athletics, the median institutional subsidy for athletics in the FBS rose from around $8 million in 2007-8 to more than $10 million in 2008-9.
The findings in the NCAA study confirmed findings from the Knight Commission’s study, Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values, and the Future of College Sports, that some institutions, particularly those with smaller athletics revenues, are increasingly relying on greater institutional allocations to meet athletics funding gaps (link here for graphic). As stated in the article, the NCAA found that growth in median revenue generated directly by athletics programs in the FBS (from sources such as ticket sales and media contracts) dropped from 17 percent from 2007-2008 to nearly 6 percent from 2008-2009. Over the same period, total athletics expenses increased from 6 percent to 11 percent.
However, the NCAA’s calculations of median athletics budgets at Division I institutions as compared to median total institutional spending demonstrated that the size of athletics expenditures as a percentage of total institutional budgets did not increase in the past year. The size of athletics spending remained consistent at around 5 percent of total institutional spending. Said NCAA interim president Jim Isch: “In the last year, the median institutional gap has closed to zero. What we don’t know is whether that phenomenon is the result of the economy or some type of behavior modification. The only way to find out is to see what happens in subsequent years.”