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Finances of Intercollegiate Athletics

Annual report that examines revenues and expenses at athletics departments throughout the NCAA releases 2004-2019 fiscal year data.

The annual report that examines revenues and expenses at athletics departments throughout the NCAA has returned in 2020 through the same public interactive dashboard that debuted a year ago. The data collected includes fiscal years 2004-05 through 2018-19 and does not reflect the more recent financial challenges schools are facing due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The dashboard enables users to sort the information in various ways to gain a more comprehensive understanding of finances in college athletics.

Data comparing finances at schools in the five autonomy conferences with those of other Division I schools is available. The data show the financial picture at most autonomy schools is vastly different than that at many of their Division I counterparts. NCAA members have repeatedly requested data demonstrating those differences, and the Association’s research team has sought to meet that need with this year’s report.

Below are key findings from this year’s report:

Fiscal Year 2019 Division I Revenues and Expenses — Key Findings

  • While schools in the five autonomy conferences generate more revenue (via ticket sales, broadcast rights, and NCAA and conference distributions, among other sources) than their counterparts in the rest of Division I, median athletics expenses at those 65 schools exceeded their total generated revenues by roughly $7 million in 2019. Meanwhile, among the nonautonomy schools in Division I, median expenses outpaced generated revenues by nearly $23 million. Schools account for those deficits by subsidizing athletics via student activity fees and direct support from the university, among other means.
  • Operating results in 2019 ranged widely throughout the Football Bowl Subdivision: One athletics department operated at a $65 million shortfall, while at the other end of the spectrum, one school finished the year with a $44 million surplus. At Football Championship Subdivision schools, median generated revenues decreased by 4.0% from 2018 to 2019, while expenses climbed 6.8%. Expenses outpaced generated revenues at every FCS institution, meaning those schools subsidized at least a portion of the athletics budget. Those subsidies ranged from $2 million to more than $42 million, with a median of $14.3 million.
  • In the Division I Subdivision (the remaining Division I schools without football), median expenses outpaced generated revenues by $14.4 million and, like the FCS, no single institution generated more revenue than it spent.
  • In total, only 25 athletics departments’ generated revenues exceeded their expenses in 2018-19 — all were in autonomy five conferences — and the median surplus at those schools was $7.9 million. While 29 athletics departments reported positive generated net revenue in fiscal year 2018, the median number of schools to do so in a given fiscal year from 2005 to 2019 is 24.
  • At the more than 1,100 NCAA schools across all three divisions, more than $18.8 billion was spent on athletics in 2019. Of that figure, $3.6 billion went toward financial aid for student-athletes, and $3.7 billion was spent on coaches compensation.
  • The total athletics revenue reported among all NCAA athletics departments in 2019 was $18.9 billion. Of that amount, approximately $10.6 billion (56%) was generated revenue by the athletics departments, leaving nearly $8.3 billion (44%) that had to be subsidized by other sources at schools across the Association, such as institutional support and student fees.
  • Autonomy schools accounted for 72% of all those revenues and only 43% of the total spending. Division I schools as a whole accounted for 96% of all NCAA-generated revenues and 83% of spending.

Division I Trends

  • As revenues at autonomy schools have risen sharply in recent years, thanks in large part to broadcast rights agreements, expenses have kept pace. Over the 15-year span captured in this year’s report, median generated revenues and expenses at autonomy schools are up by more than 149% and 159%, respectively. At the remaining FBS schools, median generated revenues are up 47%, and expenses rose 92% over the same time frame. The median expense gap between autonomy schools and other FBS schools has jumped from just more than $26 million in 2005 to $80 million in 2019. Meanwhile, over the past five years, median institutional support for autonomy schools has decreased by 9%, which is much less of a decrease after it fell by 23% from 20014-18. Among their FBS counterparts, median institutional support has jumped 18%.
  • Those divergent trends reflect a gap that has widened considerably between autonomy schools and the rest of the FBS. Until 2019, schools in the autonomy conferences had held the line financially since 2005: Their median deficit in 2005 ($2.5 million) is comparable to the figure in 2018 ($2.6 million), before jumping to just less than $7 million (167%) in 2019. During the same period, the same figure among FBS schools in nonautonomy conferences ballooned from $9 million in 2005 to just less than $23 million in 2019.

While coaching and administrative salaries have increased in Division I, that compensation has not risen disproportionately relative to other athletics expenses. Over the past 15 years, the proportion of expenses devoted to coaching and administrative salaries has climbed about 3 percentage points at autonomy schools, now accounting for just more than 36% of expenses. That figure has held relatively steady among the remaining FBS schools (between 33% and 34% of all expenses). Meanwhile, coaches compensation relative to expenses fell slightly to 18.5% in the FCS and held firm at just above 18% at Division I Subdivision schools.

Fiscal Year 2019 Division II Revenues and Expenses — Key Findings

  • Median athletics expenses at Division II schools with a football program in 2019 were $7.4 million. For those schools without football, that number was $5.8 million. At schools without football, median expenses exceeded median generated revenue by $5.5 million, compared to $6.1 million for schools with football.
  • In 2019, no Division II institutions saw generated revenues exceed expenses.
  • Over the 15-year period, median generated revenues for schools with football grew by 94.2%, while median total expenses grew by 114.1%. For schools without football, median generated revenues grew by 114.3%, while total expenses grew by 145.6%.
  • The overall negative net revenue (which might be construed as the “true” cost of running an athletics program) for schools with football programs grew from approximately $2.7 million in 2005 to approximately $6.1 million in 2019. Schools without football saw a similar trajectory, as overall negative net revenue went from $2 million in 2005 to approximately $5.5 million in 2019. 
  • Since 2007, the median student-athlete percentage of the overall student body has risen from 8.1% for schools that sponsor football to 14.2% in 2019, which includes a 2.5 percentage point jump from 2018. Schools that do not sponsor football have also seen an increase in this area, from 7.4% in 2007 to 10.9% in 2019.
  • Median athletic aid per student-athlete per academic year also has risen from 2005 to 2019. For schools sponsoring football, it increased from $3,051 in 2005 to $5,734 in 2019. As part of the median athletics expenses, this represents a 3-point increase from 29% to 32%. Schools that do not sponsor football increased their median athletic aid per student-athlete from $4,563 in 2005 to $7,975 in 2019, only representing a 0.6 percentage point increase as part of the median athletics expenses.
  • Median student fees — only applicable for schools that sponsor football — continued to decrease as a percentage of total revenue from a high of 9.5% in 2009 to 4.4% in 2019.

Fiscal Year 2019 Division III Revenues and Expenses – Key Findings

  • Of the Division III schools that reported financial data for 2019, 135 sponsor football and 74 do not. Overall, Division III student-athletes represented 23% of the general student body at these 209 schools. (Note: Financial reporting is not mandatory in Division III, and less than 50% reported financial data in 2019.)
  • In 2019, no Division III schools saw generated athletics revenues exceed expenses.
  • Coaches compensation as a percentage of total expenditures was 31% across all Division III schools in 2019, which includes a 9 percentage point difference between schools that sponsor football (34%) and schools that do not (25%).
  • Median athletics expenses accounted for 5% of a school’s overall expenditures in 2019.
  • The overall negative net revenue (which might be construed as the “true” cost of running an athletics program) for schools with football grew from approximately $1.6 million in 2005 to approximately $3.8 million in 2019. This represents a change of about 139.8% over that 15-year period. On the side of the division without football, the overall negative net revenue grew from approximately $775,000 in 2005 to approximately $2.3 million in 2019. This represents a change of about 189.7% over that 15-year period.

Revenues and Expenses Dashboard

The new interactive dashboard will enable users to sort the vast data set by using different parameters. The tool includes several tabs, each of which can be filtered by division or subdivision. They include:

  • A summary of 2019 revenues and expenses.
  • Trends in revenues and expenses.
  • An itemized breakdown of where the money comes from (revenues) and where the money goes (expenses).
  • Trends in revenues and expenses by major financial indicators.
  • Athletic expenses compared with institutional expenses over time.
  • Trends by detailed expense items.
  • Trends by detailed revenue items.
  • The number of schools with positive and negative net generated revenue over time.