U of M spent over $5 million per football win, but still made money

Categories: Sports, U of M
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The U of M ranked 20th overall in spending on college sports.
Talk about getting little on-field bang for the buck.

A Memphis Business Journal analysis indicates that during the 2010-11 academic year, the University of Minnesota spent $17 million on its football program -- the 36th most out of any school in the country and the ninth-most in the Big Ten. That season, which was the last in the disastrous tenure of coach Tim Brewster, the team went 3-9.

In other words, the U of M spent over $5 million per football win. But despite disappointing on-field results year in and year out, the football program is a huge money-maker for the school -- an analysis by The Business of College Sports found that the U of M made $16.5 million from football in 2009-10.

The $17 million the U of M invested in the football program constituted 21 percent of the $79 million the Gophers spent on sports, which ranked 20th out of all schools.

Unsurprisingly, the second most expensive program was men's basketball. The U of M spent $5.5 million on that, which was 40th in the country and sixth in the Big Ten.

Overall, the U of M ranked sixth in total sports spending out of all 12 Big Ten schools. Ohio State topped the conference at over $113 million, followed by Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Penn State.

Texas led all Division 1 schools with $126 million spent on sports, and Ohio State was second. Coppin State spent the least of all D1 schools at $3.7 million.

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Neither analysis does a very good job of breaking down revenue or expenses.  A lot of the "revenue" tends to be alumni donations (and are the costs for attracting those donations included as part of the total cost of the program?) and direct transfer from the school...which would basically be tuition and direct subsidies to the public universities.  Devil in the details and all that.  Kind of like GE posting record profits in an annual statement and a negative tax liability in IRS filings, numbers can be manipulated egregiously.

A multitude accounting  and other issues, along with the fact that the schools and national organizations in the business of college sports have an incentive to paint a rosy economic picture, makes any sort of finding of "profitibility" of college sports programs suspect.  Creative accounting has penetrated the college sports world, like it permeates so much of the rest of our economy.  I view these results with a very jaded eye, just like the occasional study from say the Vikings or the NFL showing that stadium subsidies pay for themselves when real world examples abound, and the balance of economic research indicates that the way the deals have tended to be structured that is absolutely not the point. 

Any idea what, if any, portion of the cost of TCF stadium is included in the sport program costs for the U? 

Anyway according to the NCAA barely over 1/2 of college football programs are "profitable" and slightly less than half of basketball programs, with all other sports programs coming in at a net loss.  The link below provides a somewhat more detailed look a breakdown of revenue and expenses across the industry as a whole and is based on an NCAA report, linked to through the story.     http://sportsologist.com/colle...

There is obviously money to be made through these programs, by tv networks, big name coaches and other athletic staff at the school etc. Particularly when the majority of "employees", the athletes themselves are cut out of the pie, that money being made is heavily subsidized by the unpaid interns playing for these big name programs and the students at these institutions, as well as general tax dollars going to State Universities.

Not to say that college sports programs don't have value in a wide variety of ways, although if the NBA and NFL don't want to spring for their own farm systems they ought to at least contribute to the college sports programs which act as a substitute for them paid for by others.  If college football and basketball are going to act as a semi-pro league for these organizations it is also disingenous to call them student athletes and outlaw paying them when they are the starts in a multi-billion dollar industry which does prove to be very profitbale for very many entities outside of the college system.

Anyway now I'm rambling but the issue is definitely not as clearly cut and dried as these sources indicate.


$17 milliion divided by three is not "over $6 million."  Still not exactly a bargain, kids, but do the math then write the story and headline.


That's a really strange way to start this article.  Why isn't the story that despite being in the middle of the B1G pack in spending, we are way below average in spending on football?  Which might help explain the poor results.


Egads. You're right. City Pages just agreed to pay for my tuition in a 2nd grade math class. It's apparently needed. Thanks for pointing that brainmelt out. Fixed.

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