Athletics and Institutional Support

I think about 14 NCAA schools athletic programs had excess of revenues over expenditures last year.  In the world of profit accounting, their athletic department made a profit. So, let’s see…if about 1,000 schools belong to the NCAA and 14 schools made a profit then…98.6% of schools had to rely on at least some institutional support last year to survive.

Without ever studying the numbers (but relying on my 20 years in college athletics experience) I will venture a guess that most schools provide at least 90% plus of the funds an athletic department needs to function.  Those of us with small arenas (arena is a funny haha word – more like gymnasiums) have a limited ticket revenue stream.  And then there is that silly thing called winning which contributes to the equation.  Let’s face it, those of us who have to budget need to assume the team will have a losing season without much walk-up game-day business.  When there is success then the “extra” revenue can be used for “extra” things rather than for the business of running the department.

Have you noticed that no expense is going down?  Funny thing!  While we experience flat line budgets things like transportation, equipment and the biggest money sucker of all, officials, are going up like a skier on a tow rope.  I call officiating an unfunded mandate.  While it’s tempting not to pay them…well…you know…

Here is another thing about institutional support.  The ability (and willingness) to fundraise can change the amount and percentage of institutional support.  This was something I worked hard to educate folks about during our current self-study.  For our example our fictional school has a general student ratio of 45% men and 55% women.  Let’s say the Men’s Table Tennis team has a coach who is a prolific fundraiser.  He is a world champion and has an international following.  He receives donations which he uses for team travel and recruiting and the players are decked out in the newest clothing and have state of the art equipment.  The Women’s Table Tennis team has the exact budget as the men at the beginning of the year, $250,000.  The men spend $300,000 and women spend $275,000 but the men’s deficit is covered by their booster money.  In spending dollars the men outspent their female counterparts by $25,000 bringing the balance to 52% male and 48% female. OH NO!  But wait, there’s more!  In reality the actual institutional support is $250,000 for the men and $275,000 for the women now showing the actual balance at 48% male and 52% female.  Ahhh…much better…

Here is another question: should the men’s program be limited to how much they can spend even though they work hard to raise it?  Is that really what we mean when we say “gender equity?”

As we embark on a complete organizational review at our school, part of the new initiative begun by our new president, I have to remind the committee that if they are looking at athletics as a profit making venture they are going to have to move to one of those rare 14 schools that flipped their program last year.

Life is good!


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