Tuesday, May 21, 2013

USA Today on BGSU Athletic Finances

A little while ago, the USA Today ran a story that is part of its ongoing examination of the financing of college sports.  Drawn from public data, it gives a picture of where the money comes from for college sports.

The data for Bowling Green--and most of the MAC--is sobering.  BG gets about $20,731,000 as athletic revenue.  Expenses were $18,387,000.  This gives BG the 109th largest athletic department.

That isn't the sobering part.

Of the $20M in revenues, only $1.37 million comes from ticket sales.  Student fees, on the other hand, account for $12.2M and other school funds for $2.2M.  Which means that BG's athletic revenues are subsidized to the tune of about 70%.  There's some contributions ($.9M) and $2.5M in rights licensing.

I found this just staggering.  I guess I should have known, but it just says a lot about where we are with college athletics that schools the size of BG are subsidizing athletics by 70% of total revenues.  Just for example, when people wondered why there wasn't more of a concern for ticket sales by letting Coach Orr return for what is almost certainly a lame duck year...and the answer is that tickets make only a very marginal difference in revenues.

Also, I think that it is worth noting that BGSU students are supporting athletics by a ratio of 11 or 12 to 1 when compared to ticket holders.  Those of us who are fans owe them a debt of gratitude, because without that subsidy, athletics at BG would have a zero percent chance of sustaining themselves.  Some of these fees are borrowed as student loans and they have no choice about paying.

As you look at college athletics, you have to begin to wonder if it isn't beginning to collapse of its own weight.  With the O'Bannon case sitting out there and then the proposal to pay athletes a stipend and then looking at BG with 3 major sports, you get an idea how things are getting to be a struggle.

I do think that you are going to see the largest school finish off the deal and move into their own division.  BG might spend less, and that might not be all bad.

But, the next time you are tempted to say something like "the ticket holders are supporting the program" or you threaten to take your ticket dollars elsewhere, you might want to keep these figures in mind.  Again, this is not an indictment of BG---this is the business model for most of our conference--but it does help us see exactly how little voluntary financial support the programs get.


Anonymous said...

Still, facilities like Stroh and Sebo don't get built without private/fan support.

Orange said...

That's absolutely true, but you need subsidies to turn the lights on.