Tom Kacich: UI athletics bringing in more and more dough

Tom Kacich: UI athletics bringing in more and more dough

For one of the smaller athletic programs in the Big Ten, the University of Illinois athletic department is a big business and getting bigger.

Even during an economic downturn, spending on UI athletics has grown by 57.6 percent in the last 10 years, from $48.4 million in reporting year 2005 to $80.8 million last year.

And the athletic department lost money only one time — last year — in that period, according to detailed reports filed with the NCAA and obtained by The News-Gazette.

The spending increase has been driven by a revenue surge, mostly with proceeds from the Big Ten Network. Spending soared during the 10-year period, from $47.9 million to $83.7 million.

Although the reports don't break down Big Ten Network-related revenue, the line item for "NCAA/Conference Distributions" includes shares of conference television agreements, as well as revenue from bowl games, tournaments and all NCAA distributions.

And that item jumped from $4.5 million in 2005 to $29.3 million last year. It accounted for nearly $25 million of the $32.4 million in revenue growth in the 10-year period.

The Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier reported that most Big Ten schools received about $27 million from the Big Ten Network last year and will get an estimated $34 million this year.

Even with the explosion in intercollegiate athletics spending and revenue at the UI, Illinois ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten Conference last year, according to a report by USA Today. It found that Michigan's athletic department was No. 1 in the conference and third in the NCAA, with revenue of $157.89 million and expenses of $142.55 million. Ohio State (No. 5) and Wisconsin (No. 8) also were in the NCAA's top 10, followed by Penn State (12), Minnesota (15), Iowa (16), Michigan State (18), Nebraska (26), Indiana (30) and Illinois (34).

Purdue ranked 45th, and Northwestern, a private school, is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests and did not disclose its budgets.

Rutgers (37) and Maryland (41) were not in the Big Ten at the time and won't enjoy the full financial benefit of conference membership for six years.

The best-funded athletic program in the country — the University of Oregon — had more than twice the revenue of Illinois' athletic department. It spent $110 million and brought in $196 million. Texas ranked No. 2.

Illinois made $17 million off of ticket sales in the 2013-14 academic year, up from $12.9 million 10 years earlier, but far below the revenue from powerhouse athletic programs with mammoth football stadiums such as Michigan ($53.2 million in ticket sales) and Ohio State ($56 million). Football brought in $9.2 million in ticket sales while men's basketball yielded $7.5 million. The top women's sport was volleyball, with $159,295 in ticket sales.

The UI athletic department reported $16.9 million in contributions from athletic department donors (up from $9.6 million a decade earlier); $5 million from corporate sponsorships, trademarks and royalties; $3 million from student fees; $1.7 million in sports camp income; and $1.8 million from endowments and investments.

The biggest increase in spending in the UI athletic department budget during the 10-year period was in facilities and maintenance: up from $8.7 million in 2005 to $20.7 million last year. Salaries, bonuses and benefits for administrative staff increased from $8.7 million to $13.7 million during the period.

Two line items — athletic student aid and coaches' salaries, benefits and bonuses — increased at almost the same rate to almost the same sum. Student aid, which includes tuition discounts and waivers, increased from $6.3 million to $10.9 million. The UI reported 146.6 scholarships to male athletes (85.5 in football) and 106 to female athletes.

Coaching salaries jumped from $6.4 million to $10.7 million. However, the coaching line item does not include a separate $3.2 million in severance payments made to former football and basketball coaches. The 30 men's head and assistant coaches were paid a total of about $8 million, while the 26 women's head and assistant coaches were paid about $2.7 million.

Other costs:

— $4.7 million for team travel.

— $1.6 million for uniforms, equipment and supplies.

— $1.8 million for recruiting (including transportation, lodging and meals for recruits).

— $2.5 million for visiting teams.

— $2.3 million for game-day expenses such as officials, security and event staff.

— $3.1 million for fundraising, marketing and promotion.

— $1 million for sports camp expenses.

Finally, for those wondering how growth in the athletic department budget compares to the university's overall budget, here's the surprising news: Spending rose 65 percent, from $3.47 billion in 2005 to $5.28 billion in 2014.

Of course, much of that spending was covered with a series of big tuition increases. Student tuition and fees income rose 105 percent in that time, from $507 million to more than $1.04 billion.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 217-351-5221 or at

Here are 10 years worth of UI reports to the NCAA; this is a 48-MB,
312-page file.


Sections (2):News, Local