Inside College Sports: SEC, Big Ten dominate $100M revenue club

Athletic departments that generate at least $100 million in revenue used to be incredibly rare. Only Texas, Ohio State and Florida exceeded $100 million in 2007-08. As recently as 2011-12, just 11 schools comprised the $100 million club.

The infusion of College Football Playoff dollars and increased television money continues to change the landscape of college sports. During 2014-15, 28 athletic departments listed at least $100 million in revenue, according to a CBS Sports analysis of recently released figures reported to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.

Eighteen of the 28 schools at $100 million play in the SEC or Big Ten. Athletic departments in those conferences averaged more than $100 million in revenue, widening the financial gaps between the SEC and Big Ten with everyone else. Ten of the 19 biggest moneymakers last year came from the SEC. Texas reported the most revenue at $179.6 million, followed by Ohio State ($170.9 million) and Alabama ($150.6 million).

$100 Million Revenue Club (2014-15)
Program Athletic Revenue Conference
Texas $179.6 million Big 12
Ohio State $170.9 million Big Ten
Alabama $150.6 million SEC
LSU $138.9 million SEC
Oklahoma $135.7 million Big 12
Michigan $132.3 million Big Ten
Florida $130.8 million SEC
Penn State $127.9 million Big Ten
Auburn $126.6 million SEC
Wisconsin $125.8 million Big Ten
Tennessee $121.8 million SEC
Notre Dame $121.3 million --
Florida State $121.3 million ACC
Kentucky $116.5 million SEC
Arkansas $116.2 million SEC
Georgia $116.2 million SEC
South Carolina $113.2 million SEC
Michigan State $113.0 million Big Ten
Texas A&M $110.0 million SEC
Stanford $109.7 million Pac-12
Iowa $107.4 million Big Ten
Baylor $106.1 million Big 12
USC $105.9 million Pac-12
Minnesota $105.6 million Big Ten
Louisville $104.3 million ACC
Nebraska $103.8 million Big Ten
Washington $103.5 million Pac-12
Kansas $103.3 million Big 12

The Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) requires schools to report financial numbers, including overall revenue, to the Department of Education each year. The numbers aren't as comprehensive as the annual financial reports schools provide to the NCAA.

Schools sometimes count money differently so the EADA numbers aren’t a precise comparison. Also, revenue can significantly vary for a school by year if it is engaged in a capital fundraising campaign. Still, the figures provide a snapshot of the growing revenue for schools and the continuing divide between haves and have-nots, even within Power Five conferences.

The 65 universities that compromise the Power Five conferences (plus Notre Dame) totaled $6.3 billion in revenue during 2014-15. Last year marked the debut of the College Football Playoff, restructured bowl contracts that were far more lucrative, and the start of the SEC Network.

The gap in revenue can be startling. For instance, Texas A&M, a former Big 12 member, ranked 10th in revenue among SEC schools at $110 million. That was higher than every Pac-12 school, all but one ACC school (Florida State) and all but two Big 12 schools (Texas and Oklahoma).

SEC schools averaged $110.3 million in revenue, followed by the Big Ten ($103.3 million). Revenue from SEC schools spiked 25 percent in the past three years. The Big Ten is expected to soon see its money significantly jump after a new media rights deal.

Big 12 schools averaged $99 million in revenue last year, but that figure was heavily skewed by Texas ($179.6 million) and Oklahoma ($135.7 million). Six of the 10 Big 12 members were under $88 million. Pac-12 schools averaged $85.6 million and ACC schools averaged $83.3 million.

Gaps continue to widen even within major conferences. In 2007-08, Texas made $81.7 million more than Iowa State, the poorest Big 12 school. In 2014-15, that gap had grown to $113.9 million.

Ohio State and Rutgers were in different stratospheres in the Big Ten, separated last year by $105.8 million. Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue also got doubled up in revenue compared to Ohio State, last year’s national champion in football.

Alabama reported $82.4 million more than fellow SEC school Mississippi State. Georgia ($116.2 million), a perennial top-20 moneymaker nationally, was nearly as close in revenue to Ole Miss ($81 million) as it was to Alabama.

Of course, having a lot of money doesn’t automatically translate to on-field success. Ask Texas, which can’t get out of its own way on the football field in recent years. Still, more money means the ability to pay higher salaries and build fancier facilities in the never-ending fight to attract recruits and win games.

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NCAA: 25% of schools award multiyear scholarships

NCAA members’ mixed reaction to a 2012 rule change allowing schools to offer multiyear scholarships demonstrates why a lawsuit about the issue should not be granted class-action status, according to the NCAA. John Rock is an ex-Gardner-Webb quarterback who sued in 2012 over the NCAA’s previous rule prohibiting multiyear scholarships. The Rock case, now in the class certification stage, seeks damages and an order requiring Division I schools to offer multiyear scholarships in football.

In recent court filings, the NCAA said 25 percent of responding FBS schools to a survey have awarded multiyear scholarships to incoming football players since 2012, and just 6 percent by FCS schools. At schools that generally offer multiyear scholarships, only between 8 percent and 11 percent of FBS football players received multiyear scholarships. The NCAA cited an expert for Rock, Daniel Rascher, who projected that about 15 percent of all possible FBS football scholarships in 2016-17 will be for multiple years. This is an attempt by the NCAA to argue the case lacks commonality between potential plaintiffs to warrant a class action.

“As Rock admits, the relevant injury in this case is not class members failing to receive multiyear scholarships; it is class members ‘actually los[ing] or ha[ving] their scholarships reduced,’” the NCAA wrote.

A report by NCAA expert Lauren Stiroh tracked a group of college athletes for four years after they arrived on scholarship in 2009-10. According to the report, 20 percent of those athletes experienced a reduction in scholarship aid, 28 percent did not appear on subsequent squad lists, and the remaining 52 percent continued to receive aid despite not receiving multiyear scholarships. The NCAA’s argument: a one-year scholarship does not mean aid was inevitably reduced or cancelled. Rascher created a list of potential, not actual, class members and acknowledged in a deposition there’s no way to know who belongs in the class, the NCAA said.

The NCAA also argued the class can’t be certified because Rock was not recruited by an FBS school based on the NCAA definition, voluntarily left Gardner-Webb while enrolled, and has no NCAA eligibility remaining. Rock is trying to certify a class of all Division I football players who were recruited by at least one FBS school and did not receive their initial athletic scholarship for the full duration of their undergraduate education or five years.

Lawyers for Rock have a reply due by Jan. 18 and are seeking rebuttal discovery, including to address the NCAA’s contention that Rock was not recruited by FBS schools. The NCAA said Rock’s lawyers, led by the firm of Steve Berman, sent Freedom of Information Act requests to Eastern Michigan, Boise State and Ball State seeking records related to his “alleged” recruitment and the schools claimed they have no such records.

Perhaps in response to the FBS recruitment question, Berman filed a similar lawsuit in November in the same Indiana federal court. That case brought by ex-Weber State cornerback Devin Pugh, who claims three FBS schools offered him a scholarship, challenges the NCAA’s cap on football scholarships per team and the old rule banning multiyear scholarships. Pugh differs from Rock by also challenging NCAA rules requiring transferring players to sit out a year.

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Iowa State objects to subpoena in Kessler case

Iowa’s attorney general filed an objection, on Iowa State’s behalf, to a subpoena for records in a lawsuit against the NCAA and conferences regarding the value of athletic scholarships. Attorney General Thomas Miller wrote that parts of the subpoena requested by the plaintiffs’ lawyers, who include prominent sports attorney Jeffrey Kessler, were overly broad and would violate federal privacy laws.

The filing by Miller sheds some light on what Kessler and other attorneys are seeking in discovery. One request: Documents from schools that identify every athlete during a specified period who received money from NCAA special assistance funds, the precise source and amount of each distribution, and the purpose for the provided funds. Iowa State said it would produce the summary forms it sends to the NCAA that contains the total for Student Assistance Fund, Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund and Special Assistance Fund distributions.

The scholarship lawsuit alleges the NCAA and its schools violate antitrust law by capping the amount of money a school can provide a college athlete. The plaintiffs argue that without the cap, schools would compete for players by offering more generous scholarships. A federal judge recently granted the lawsuit class-action status.

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Read ‘Em

Each week this space will highlight some excellent recent work by college sports media on difficult topics to report.

* Ross Dellenger and Elizabeth Crisp of the Baton Rouge Advocate detailed how LSU and Jimbo Fisher entered negotiations, but big-name figures and an outpouring of support saved Les Miles.

* Ryan Aber and Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman reported that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield’s family is down to a few options for regaining his fourth year of eligibility.

* USA Today released its annual salary database for college football assistant coaches.

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Quote of the Week

“I just want to talk to the kids who are watching this on TV and listening to me today. I just want to give you all advice. I am hoping that I am somebody you can idolize yourself behind and look up to because God is everything and always keep God first.”

-- Alabama running back Derrick Henry during his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech.

Follow and read more from Jon Solomon on Facebook and Twitter.

Alabama and the SEC find plenty of financial success off the field. (USATSI)
Alabama and the SEC find plenty of financial success off the field. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jon Solomon is CBS Sports's national college football writer. A former Alabama resident, he now lives in Maryland and also writes extensively on NCAA topics. Jon previously worked at The Birmingham News,... Full Bio

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