Between the Lines: Athletic Revenue Trends

Each week, Fanalytical delivers three quick reads of curated research and best practices to help Athletics’ leaders engage their fans, improve fan experience, and boost revenue.

This Week: Athletic Revenue Trends

Between licensing deals, television contracts, booster clubs, ticket sales and other major donors, most college athletic departments in top conferences continue to make and spend more every year. But is that growth and spending sustainable? What about the schools outside of the Power 5 conferences? This week, we’re examining key trends with athletic revenue.

Save a Nickel, Spend a Dime…

In 2015, revenue for the 50 public schools in the Power Five conferences rose by $304 million; however, spending rose by $332 million from the year before. Similarly, at 178 public DI universities outside of the Power Five, revenue increased by $199 million and spending rose by $218 million. Economist Andrew Zimbalist suggests that college sports’ spending is unsustainable and there are a few factors that could cause “the bubble to burst,” yet there are many that are skeptical.

Less “Power,” More Pressure

It’s no secret that the Power Five conference schools out-compete other conferences in capital. However, only 24 of the 230 public schools in Division I can “stand on their own” according to the NCAA’s benchmark for self-sufficiency (a.k.a. can generate operating revenues that are at least equal to its operating expenses without pulling from student fees, university funding or government support). No school outside of the Power 5 made the cut. The NCAA is changing legislation to level the playing field, but some schools have to look for alternate revenue resources.

In the Red Zone

When you’re prepping for an interview, many people will advise you to pick a weakness that’s a “strength in disguise.” It’s human nature for us to turn a blind eye to our imperfections, but it’s time to face the man in the mirror: the reason most athletic departments struggle to profit is not because of costs, but of “bloated” spending. Let’s see if that new video board is ACTUALLY worth it…

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