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Stats: Cash Flow in College Football

A touchdown is always six points, but there’s no such consistency in athletics accounting. Not only does profit depend on your definition of profit, but it also depends on the definition of individual line items. The information in these university football profiles comes from Equity in Athletics Disclosure forms filed by the universities with the U.S. Department of Education. Florida Trend elected to use those forms to have a uniform standard for reporting football expenses and spending. The numbers may not match what the universities report about that spending elsewhere. All the forms are for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2006. The source for student/faculty ratios is Princeton Review’s 2008 Complete Book of Colleges.

“Game-day” expenses include costs for officials, security and event staff. “Guarantees” include income a team accepts to play against another school.

University of Florida

University of Central Florida

University of South Florida

Florida State University

Florida International University

Florida Atlantic University

Florida A&M University

University of Florida

Tim Tebow
[Photo: University of Florida]
» UF built its original football field and stadium and fielded its first team in 1930. By 1955, according to a headline in the Tampa Daily Times, football was a “Profitable Business at Florida.” These days, national champ Florida is one of the few college football programs in the nation that makes serious money.

» For all Gator sports, the fund-raising arm known as Gator Boosters Inc. generates a third of the funds needed to run the entire athletics department. This year, Gator Boosters transfers to the Athletic Association are projected at $25 million.

» Some die-hard fans pay $12,000 a year for membership into the Bull Gators, which guarantees them an opportunity to buy luxury suites. The suites can cost as much as $48,000 a year. As part of a special fund-raising campaign to build a $28-million “Gateway of Champions” at the stadium entrance, Bull Gators can also donate $1 million to have dinner with Coach Urban Meyer and his family or a chance to run onto Florida Field with the team before a home game.

» This season, SEC revenue from bowl games, TV and championships is projected to be $8.5 million; sponsorships and scoreboard advertising, another
$2.1 million; equipment contracts, more than $4.1 million.

UF football cash flow

University of Central Florida

[Photo: Unversity of Central Florida]

» The Knights began playing football in 1979 as a Division III program and moved up to Division I in 1996. When UCF began competing in Conference USA in 2005, travel expenses increased $700,000 and contract services $1.2 million, including chartered aircraft. This fall saw the next major milestone and price tag: The opening of a $55-million stadium. Bright House Networks paid $15 million for naming rights.

» By far the largest revenue source for the UCF Athletics Association is student fees — more than $12.6 million, compared to a little more than $1 million from all game revenue and $3.3 million from contributions to all sports.

UCF football cash flow

University of South Florida

[Photo: J. Meric]

» Just 11 years after USF launched a football program so modest that it operated out of trailers, the Bulls hit the big time this year, making it into the Top 10. “We’re on top of the world,” defensive end George Selvie told reporters after the West Virginia game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, where a school-record crowd of 67,018 showed up. The Cinderella story proves you don’t need a campus stadium to make it big, although USF officials say the pressure’s already mounting to jump into the arms race and build one. Meanwhile, Coach Jim Leavitt — the Bulls’ first and only head coach — now has a $7-million, seven-year contract.

USF football cash flow

Florida State University

[Photo: Florida State University]
» Financially, the Seminoles are rolling — so much so that the team stays in a hotel for home games. Nike pays FSU $1 million a year, $345,000 of which goes to Coach Bobby Bowden, provides $2.1 million a year in apparel, funds a scholarship in Bowden’s name and hires two FSU students as summer interns at $10,000 each. Coke pays FSU $739,000 a year and delivers up to $10,000 in Powerade.

» Football profit is more than enough to cover the losses from all minor men’s and women’s sports, except women’s basketball, which men’s basketball easily funds. FSU’s Seminole Boosters has $132 million in pledges in hand. The university absorbs some athletics’ costs. For instance, athletics got $350,000 in out-of-state tuition waivers. But Orange Bowl receipts in 2006 brought $250,000 to the library.

FSU football cash flow
Note: FSU reported $16.1 million in contributions but didn’t assign them to a particular sport.

Florida International University

[Photo: Florida International]

» After last year’s “perfect” season (0-12) and owning the nation’s longest losing streak through early October, FIU looks forward next year, when it begins play in a $31-million, 18,000-seat stadium that can be expanded to 45,000 seats. New Head Coach Mario Cristobal, 37, a Miami native, took over a program that began playing football only in 2002 and moved last year to the Bowl Subdivision.

FIU football cash flow

Florida Atlantic University

[Photo: Florida Atlantic University]

» Talk about starting over. Veteran college and pro Coach Howard Schnellenberger, who led the University of Miami to the 1983 national championship, arrived in 1998 to start a football program. He raised $15 million for it and became head coach when football launched in Division I-AA in 2001 and into Division 1-A (now the Bowl Subdivision) in 2005.

» In September, Schnellenberger went to Orlando and saw FAU’s future in UCF’s new 45,000-seat stadium. “They went from a semi-profitable situation to an extremely profitable situation,” Schnellenberger, 73, says. A few days later, FAU trustees approved a plan for a self-supporting $62-million, 30,000-seat stadium to open on the Boca Raton campus in 2010.

FAU football cash flow
*FAU reported $740,852 in contributions but didn’t assign most of it to a particular sport.

Dreams on Hold

Alone among the state’s football-playing schools at the 1-AA level, FAMU operates a modest but profitable program.

FAMU field
[Photo: FAMU]

So which Florida college football team has won more national championships than any other? Florida A&M University, which won nine National Negro Collegiate Football Championships between 1938 and 1961, and another Black College title under legendary Coach Jake Gaither in 1964.

Even after integration siphoned away top African-American recruits who went on to stardom at formerly all-white colleges, the school maintained schedules among the toughest in Division 1-AA, in which it won the inaugural title in 1978.
In 2003, the NCAA approved the Rattlers’ bid to move to Division 1-A, but the university underestimated the financial implications, such as the ramifications of new football scholarships on Title IX gender-equity requirements. Meanwhile, the bid got caught up in the school’s larger management and accounting problems.

As the university retrenches, there’s consensus that its new president, alumnus James H. Ammons, must concentrate on FAMU’s academic mission rather than athletics. “I don’t think the Bowl Subdivision is a total pipedream, but if we do it again, we’re going to have to do it with our heads as well as our hearts,” says FAMU assistant athletic director Alvin Hollins.

Financially, Rattler football may look more modest than Florida’s Bowl Subdivision programs — it has 63 scholarships compared to 85 in Division 1-A — but it’s profitable for FAMU’s $7.1-million athletics department. The university’s football expenses were $776,342 in 2006. Revenue was $2,760,633, most of those in ticket sales and sponsorships,
for a profit of nearly $2 million.