College sports money sets records in post-COVID era, NIL: Data Viz –

Major college athletic departments are spending and reporting more than ever, despite recent fears that the COVID-19 pandemic and more marketing rights for athletes could trigger a new era of austerity.

Schools across the country recently finalized their annual income and expense reports for the 2021-22 academic year, the first full college season under the new NIL rules and the first since the pandemic began with a minimum of matches postponed or cancelled. Over the next few weeks, Sportico will continue to collect these reports from upper-tier public schools and enter them into its intercollegiate finance database.

An analysis of 63 FBS public schools shows that budgets have increased in line with rising inflation, in some cases exceeding the rate of inflation. Frontline athletics spending among this cohort increased 7.3% in 2021-22 from 2018-19, with the average program increasing its spending from $86.4 million in 2018-19 to 92.7 million dollars in 2021-2022. Revenue generated, which Sportico calculated by removing items such as tuition and transfers from the institution – grew at a similar rate, from $74.2 million in the last pre-COVID season to $80.6 million in 2021-2022 (a jump of 8.5%).

This general trend was also reflected in the latest financial statements from the NCAA. Last week, the governing body released its report on fiscal year 2022, and its operations are also largely back to pre-pandemic normal. Revenue from his TV deals is at record highs, as is the money he makes hosting championship tournaments and the NIT. The NCAA would have had record total revenue in 2022 had it not been for a net loss of $72 million on its investments.

Altogether, the results push back the doomsday noises that came out of the sporting departments two years ago, when prominent ADs warned their fans that the emerging financial crisis laid an existential threat to their programs and prophesied that the business model of intercollegiate athletics had “changed forever”. NCAA leaders have used similar language in the organization’s fight to keep athletes from taking advantage of their name, image and likeness (NIL).

Early data indicates that these fears, real or imagined, may not have been well founded. Here’s a deeper look at the latest data from the Athletic Department:

Overall expenses

Sports budgets recovered last year after a huge drop in 2020-21. The 7.3% increase in average spending from 2018-19 to 2021-22 is approximately equal to the 8.3% CPI inflation over the period covering the start of these fiscal years, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, spending in some specific categories has not fully rebounded from the pandemic cuts. Fundraising and marketing expenses, for example, were cut in half in the 2020-21 school year and remained 16% lower in 2021-22 compared to 2018-2019.

Remuneration of coaches

Coaches have not borne the brunt of athletic department cost cuts during the pandemic and also received a pay raise in the first full year that revenue was unaffected by COVID- 19.

The total salary of football coaches has increased by 18.2% since before the pandemic, an increase far exceeding even that of non-football coaches, whose salary has increased by 12.6%. In addition, soccer coach compensation and bonuses specifically related to bowling games increased by 37% on average, more than any other reported expense category.

Coaches allowance

Coaches have been paid more in 2021-22 than ever before, but they’ve also been paid more for not coaching. Severance pay increased by 31.6% among 63 colleges Sportico analyzed, the second most of any expense category. Much of this increase was concentrated in a few schools. The University of Connecticut, for example, paid former men’s basketball head coach Kevin Ollie more than $11 million in 2022 when the school lost in arbitration after he tried to fire Ollie “for cause. “.


Many elaborate campus tours that might have taken place in a normal year were replaced by video calls at the height of the pandemic. As a result, recruiting costs fell in 2020-21, but rebounded the following year. Overall, recruitment spending increased by 5.7% between 2018-19 and 2021-22.

This figure, however, does not tell the whole story. Football recruitment spending increased by 17.5% in 2021-22 compared to three years ago, while non-football recruitment costs actually fell. This trend has been seen most acutely in Power Five schools, where football recruiting spending is more than 20% higher than pre-pandemic levels.


Revenue declines during the COVID-19 pandemic have led some schools — and their athletic departments — to seek capital quickly through loans. Debt over the past 36 months, however, has grown much faster on the university side. At those 63 schools, institutional debt increased by 13.5%, while athletics-specific debt only increased by 3.1%.

Emily Caron contributed to this story.

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