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April 15, 2004

D1A Conference Finances: BCS / Non-BCS = Haves / Have-Nots?

FROM AN NCAA REPORT on Division I-A conference finances come confirmed suspicions (of have and have-not conferences), no-brainers (the gap between BCS and non-BCS conferences) and counterintuitive deductions (that increased spending does not create more wins or attract a greater number of applicants).

With a mind-numbing surfeit of graphs and charts, the study clearly shows that institutions in the top six “have” D-1A conferences—ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-10, Big East—generate significantly greater revenues than the five “have not” D1-A conferences—Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, WAC.

For example, the smallest of the so-called BCS leagues (the “haves”) is the Big East, which generated revenues of $27 million in 2002. Meanwhile, the biggest of the non-BCS leagues (the “have-nots”), the Mountain West, generated only $18 million in 2002.

More noticeable to many, however, the study shows that the “haves” grew at a much higher rate over the life of the ten year study than the “have-nots.” All BCS conferences at least doubled revenues from 1993 to 2002, with the Big 12 posting an impressive 146% increase. Meanwhile, some non-BCS conferences posted only “modest” increases of 42%, 63% and 85% over the same period.

This does not appear to be an example of the “rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer.” Rather, this is the “rich getting richer, and the poor getting richer too—but not as fast as the rich.”

Whereas in society and political circles there exists the phrase “class envy,” what we seem to have in Division I-A is “conference envy,” or maybe “BCS envy.”

Curiously, the data for expenses include operating budgets only, and not capital expenditures. As it is, most D1A programs fail to operate at a profit. Inclusion of the amortization of a $30 million stadium expansion would only exacerbate an already bleak profit-and-loss performance for most D1A athletic programs.

But hey, it's only money.

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(this 298 word excerpt—with added commentary—was condensed from an 1191 word article in The NCAA News of 4-12-04)