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Friday, March 31, 2006
 
New Study on College Sports Finances and NCAA Tax Exemption

The Indianapolis Star's Mark Alesia--arguably the nation's premiere reporter on NCAA issues--has outdone himself in his latest feature: a massive study on how university general funds and students contribute to athletic departments and the interplay of those contributions with the NCAA's tax exempt status as a non-profit entity (Alesia, "Colleges Play, Public Pays," Indianapolis Star, 3/30/2006; Alesia also built an NCAA Financial Reports Database from the story). The NCAA qualifies for the non-profit exemption because it claims to be "organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes." Earlier this month, we discussed a story by Alesia on how the U.S. House and Ways Committee has begun a quiet investigation into whether the NCAA, conferences, and school athletic departments have misused their tax exempt status as non-profit, educational entities (3/14/2006). For this story, Alesia analyzed the 2004-05 athletic budgets of 164 of the nation's 215 biggest public schools. He was assisted by Matt Moore, Mark Nichols, Chris Phillips, Ole Morten Orset, Ben Thomas, Jimmy Trodglen, and Kandra Branam.

So what did Alesia find? First off, he found that athletic departments at taxpayer-funded universities nationwide receive more than $1 billion in student fees and general school funds and services, and that without such outside funding, fewer than 10 percent of athletic departments would have been able to support themselves with ticket sales, television contracts and other revenue-generating sports sources. In fact, most would have lost more than $5 million.

Here are the top the top 10 Moneymaking State Schools and then the Final 4 Schools:

TOP 10 MONEYMAKERS (using adjusted bottom line)

FUNDING FROM OUTSIDE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT

University,

Total

Total

% of operating

Student

government

outside

operating

revenue from

Reported

Adjusted

fees

support

support

revenue

outside support

Bottom line

bottom line

Georgia

3,028,878

0

3,028,878

68,787,384

4%

23,854,329

20,825,451

Michigan

0

0

0

78,424,186

0%

17,037,042

17,037,042

Kansas

972,123

2,214,159

3,186,282

50,826,019

6%

10,064,665

6,878,383

LSU

0

0

0

60,937,676

0%

5,080,280

5,080,280

Texas A&M

0

839,348

839,348

64,180,453

1%

5,307,357

4,468,009

Texas

1,673,928

1,353,382

3,027,310

89,651,682

3%

7,250,853

4,223,543

Iowa

1,505,016

2,127,182

3,632,198

61,676,257

6%

6,693,599

3,061,401

Alabama

2,550,605

0

2,550,605

62,287,192

4%

5,297,584

2,746,979

Kansas State

566,752

2,382,288

2,949,040

39,884,220

7%

5,489,599

2,540,599

Virginia Tech

5,840,958

324,469

6,165,427

45,730,485

13%

8,265,356

2,099,929

FINAL FOUR SCHOOLS

% from

ATHLETIC FUNDING FROM

student,

University

Student fees

Total athletic revenue

government

SCHOOLS

government support

(Per student)

(in millions)

funding

Louisiana State

None

None

None

$60.9

0%

Florida

$1.3 million

$2.4 million

($45)***

$77.7

5%

UCLA

$210,000

$2.3 million

($62)

$46.0

6%

George Mason

$1.6 million

$7.5 million

($346)

$11.0

84%

Alesia and his staff then studied the effect of taxpayers indirectly subsidizing athletic departments through the tax-exemption. He found that the exemption particularly benefits big schools, which receive up to 40 percent of their athletic revenue from donations, most of which are tax-deductible. At Indiana University, for example, donations constitute 21 percent of revenue; at Purdue, 27 percent. And keep in mind, all of the TV money the NCAA and its schools receive go untaxed--we're talking about hundreds of millions of untaxed dollars there.

Expectedly, there are serious criticisms of this arrangement in light of how big-time college sports appear far more focused on entertainment than education. This is particularly troubling, Alesia notes, considering rising tuition and stagnant state support for higher education. Economist Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College tells Alesia, "The subsidies grossly overestimate the role of intercollegiate athletics in higher education. This should be something that absorbs a much smaller share of outside resources." Moreover, as noted by Professor Rodney Fort of Washington State, "The simple fact is that the athletic department enjoys subsidies in many areas where other departments at the university must pay explicitly."

There is much, much more to this story, and I strongly encourage you to read it, as it is a masterpiece in the empirical research of sports economics. Part II of this story is being published on the front page of Saturday's Indianapolis Star, and it will soon be available on-line.

I also encourage you to check out Alesia's huge database on NCAA Financial Reports. It is the the most detailed, publicly available database of college athletic department financial information ever assembled. I just spent quite a bit of time on it and look forward to spending more.





7 Comments:

I'd like to see this if all the 112 private schools would correspond and give their accounting numbers for the data. My college plays in the MAAC and all our schools are private so I couldn't find any new information on those schools.

But shouldn't the NCAA and this study be able to get those numbers because those colleges take federal money?

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