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The Business Of College Sports, And TCU

For the fiscal year ending 5/31/2012, TCU Athletics spent a total of just over $68 Million, but they didn't come close to making that much in revenue. TCU is part of a trend in college sports, dominated by lots of red and little black.

Chris Del Conte, the man responsible for growing TCU to greater heights.
Chris Del Conte, the man responsible for growing TCU to greater heights.
Tom Pennington

Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram is out with a report this morning, citing US Department of Education data, that shows a disturbing trend in college athletics: Big time football makes a lot of money, but more and more athletic departments are operating in the red, with few managing to break even or turn a profit.

Football is still a major money maker for most schools, the primary driver of revenue. But, even a successful program like TCU can find it hard to fill the coffers with enough coin to cover the rising costs of a top flight team.

The article has all the important numbers, but I wanted to draw some of them out here for you so you could see exactly what this means for TCU.

For the 2011-2012 athletic year, TCU Athletics saw revenue of $51,943,543. Of this roughly $52 million, $25,984,011 was generated directly by the football program.

For the same period, TCU Athletics realized total expenses of $68,050,907. Of this roughly $68 million, TCU reported that $25,984,011 was spent by the football team, magically breaking even.

I am sure you see that the math almost never adds up.

During the same period, there was a reported $16,107,364 in non-sport allocated expenses, which was also magically covered by non-allocated revenue of the same amount.

If you listen to Chris Del Conte talk about TCU Athletics, you will often hear the story of how TCU decided to invest in athletics many years ago, making it a priority to build the entire program now instead of waiting for a big conference to come along and pick them up. To put it another way: Spend like you are in the Big 12, but have TCU cover the excess athletics costs that shared revenue in a major BCS conference would typically account for.

If you go back and look at fiscal years past for TCU, this same situation always plays out: The expenses and revenues magically match up, with a large dump of cash (always $10 million+) in the non-allocated column at the end of the report.

This, I fear, is the "loss". Because I don't have an itemized excel sheet to look through, I can't tell you how much of that was from MWC media revenue, how much from donations, and how much was from TCU. It is safe to say that it was a combination of all the above.

And sure, every team has a budget. But, Kansas State (for example) turned a profit of roughly $13 million last year on football, with an equal amount of total revenue generated. That money was used to cover other sports that weren't as fortunate, ending up with a $12 million athletic department profit... Sounds nice right?

But not TCU, or SMU. You know, SMU, that school that fired its Athletic Director after he continued to run deficits well into the $15-20 million dollar range with no relief in sight?

By the way, for last year, SMU's reported athletic budget had magically even expenses and revenues across the board, except for a $10,417,000 non-allocated budget line at the end of their report... The same line that the vast majority of athletic programs list, the gray area where somehow a big loss gets covered, and the private institution doesn't have to tell how.

2011-2012 was TCU's final year in the MWC, where media revenue was sparse at roughly $1-2 million. The first year in the Big 12, 2012-13, should net TCU roughly $10 million in shared media revenue, not including third tier revenue being generated by FrogVision and a partnership with local cable sports entity Fox Sports Southwest.

And yes, I expect revenues for Football, Basketball and Baseball to also be up, as will revenue from the Frog Club which seeks to cover the costs of athletic scholarships and aid, which TCU reported to be about $12.7 million last year.

But, will TCU truly break even in 2012-13? Probably not. Will they in 2015-16, when they have a full share of Big 12 media revenue? Probably, they might even turn a small profit.

Until then, TCU Athletics will continue to operate like the majority of big time athletics programs do, in the red, with the University and wealthy donors covering the losses.

This is not meant to be a criticism specifically of TCU, or Chris Del Conte, or Gary Patterson... I simply wish to present the data as clearly as possible. I hope to see TCU athletics in the black in a few years, but we still have a ways to go.

For your information, I have included relevant information about athletics below, and the most recently available data for the University as well. The specific salary data is based off of the 2010-2011 fiscal year Form 990 public filing. Information for the fiscal year 2011-2012 will likely not be available until late April or May of 2013 as TCU will not have to file until around 04/01/2013.


(The following data is for the 2011-2012 fiscal year)

2011-2012 Total Athletics Generated Revenue: $51,943,543
2011-2012 Total Athletics Generated Expenses: $68,050,907
Difference: $16,107,364

Total Football Revenue: $25,984,011
Total Men's Basketball Revenue: $6,020,481
Total Women's Basketball Revenue: $3,593,335
Total Revenue For All Other Sports: $16,345,716

Total Athletic Student Aid: $12,737,129

Total Men's Sports Coaches Salaries Paid (Incl. assistants): $7,587,928
Total Women's Sports Coaches Salaries Paid (Incl. assistants): $1,815,390

(The following data is for 2010-2011 fiscal year)

Total Number of TCU Employees (Incl. Athletics) Making Greater Than $100k: 237
Total Value of Held Mineral Rights, At Fair Market Value: $158,975,002
Total Cash/Investments Held In Caribbean/Central America: $76,727,718
Total Spent On Chartered Air/Business Jet Travel: $917,200

Total Compensation(Salary, Bonus, Special Compensation)

Gary Patterson: $3,467,926 ($2 million salary) -- This represents almost 1% of TCU's total expenses in 2010-11
Victor Boschini: $1,040,542
James Hille: $876,315
Chris Del Conte: $695,769 ($375,000 base salary)
Brian Gutierrez: $676,351
Jim Christian: $653,725 ($480,000 base salary)
Michael Garrison: $567,799
Nowell Donovan: $441,230
James Schlossnagle: $433,698 ($230,000 base salary)
Donald Whelan Jr.: $421,659
Jeff Mittie: $408,812 ($250,000 base salary)
Willett Stallworth: $257,170
Donald Mills: $228,856
Tracy Syler-Jones: $222,059
Larry Lauer: $210,088
Cheryl Wilson: $210,779

Special Compensation

Chartered Jet Travel for Athletics/Recruiting/Business: Boschini, Whelan, Lauer, Syler-Jones, Christian, Del Conte, Mittie, and Patterson.

Chartered Jet Travel for Personal & Companion: Christian, Del Conte, Mittie, Patterson, and Schlossnagle

Social Club Dues(Paid For by TCU): Boschini, Del Conte, Whelan, Mills, Hille, Patterson, Christian, Patterson, and Schlossnagle.

Bonuses/Signing Bonuses Paid

Boschini: $25,000 Performance Bonus
Gutierrez: $50,000 Signing Bonus, $20,000 Performance Bonus
Willett Stallworth: $25,000 Performance Bonus
Donald Whelan: $40,294 Performance Bonus
Cheryl Wilson: $10,000 Performance Bonus
Chris Del Conte: $170,158 Performance Bonus
Chris Del Conte: $40,200 Relocation Expense Stipend
Gary Patterson: $1,085,000 Performance Bonus
Jeff Mittie: $40,000 Performance Bonus
Jim Christian: $15,000 Performance Bonus
Jim Schlossnagle: $119,935 Performance Bonus

Total Bonuses Awarded: $1,600,387