MU athletics one of 14 FBS programs to turn profit

More than 100 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision lost money on football.
Lauren Eggering / Graphic Designer

A report released by the NCAA last week found MU’s Athletics Department was one of 14 athletics programs of the 120 universities making up the Football Bowl Subdivision that turned a profit in 2009. In 2008, 25 of the FBS schools were able to post figures in the black.

Although the NCAA doesn't release revenues for individual schools, MU along with University of Texas, University of Alabama, Ohio State University, University of Florida and University of Tennessee, were some of the schools confirmed to have earned money in the report, which was authored by Transylvania University professor Dan Fulks.

"We place a really high emphasis on fiscal responsibility," Athletics Department spokesman Chad Moller said.

The men's basketball and football programs were the only two programs in which any university reported higher revenues than expenses. Sixty-eight football programs and 67 men's basketball programs were profitable in 2009, an increase since 2004.

Institutions generally use the money earned from football and men's basketball to fund lower-profile sports, which generally do not generate enough revenue to cover their expenses.

"For anyone in a BCS Conference, football is the engine that drives the department," said Kevin Klintworth, Oklahoma State University Athletics Department spokesman.

The impact of a successful football program is seen in Fulks' report. Out of the 97 Division I schools without a football program, all 97 had higher expenses than revenue with a median loss of just under $3 million.

"There's no question that football and men's basketball drive our economic engine, and because of the success of those programs both on the field and the court and then financially, that helps us fund all of our other sports," Moller said.

According to the study, part of MU's fiscal success comes from the achievements of its athletic teams. In 2009, the MU football team went 8-4 and was chosen for the Texas Bowl shown on ESPN. Under coach Mike Anderson, the MU basketball team went 31-7 and reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.

"Winning programs create more excitement in your fan base, and the more excitement there is, the more willing people are to jump on board and support you," Moller said. "It's vital. Losing programs are much harder to keep afloat."

According to the report, last year was the first year no institution posted a profit in women's basketball dating back to 2004, the earliest year with relevant data.

The gap between the most fiscally successful programs and those in need continued to increase in 2009, though at a slower rate than previous years.

"The largest generated revenue of $138,500,000 compared with the median generated revenue of $32,264,000 in 2009, is indicative of the disparity in the FBS," Fulks said.

Most athletic programs in the country rely on subsidies from the university they represent. The most recent economic recession has caused several schools to lose some funding and as a result, they have had to make cuts in the classroom as well as on the playing field.

As several states continue to make budget cuts, self-sustaining athletic programs will continue to pull away financially from programs, which rely on funding from their institution.

Moller said MU athletics is on its way to become self-sufficient within a few years.

"The support that comes to us from our main campus is being reduced gradually over the next couple years until eventually it's zero, so it's going to make it tougher," Moller said.

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