"UT-Austin is once again revenue king in Texas sports; basketball success gives Tech a boost" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
San Antonio will host the men's college Final Four this weekend, wrapping up a basketball tournament that will make hundreds of millions of dollars for the NCAA and its member schools. To mark the occasion, The Texas Tribune reviewed the NCAA financial reports for the state's eight major college athletics programs.
Those schools are the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas State University and the University of Houston — all of which play in the top-level Football Bowl Subdivision.
Most of them failed once again to generate a profit. Below are some other details that grabbed our attention. Note, however, that these stats are for the 2016-17 sports year. Data for this season won’t be available until 2019.
Texas college athletics fail to make profit — again
The Tribune reviewed data from 2007-08 to 2016-17. The eight schools combined to lose money in each of those years. In 2016-17, they spent a combined $42 million more than they brought in — the largest loss of the past three years. And that loss doesn't include sports-related capital expenses incurred by the universities or their systems that weren't included in the expense totals.
Five schools recorded losses of more than $10 million, headed by the University of North Texas finishing the fiscal year more than $25 million in the red. A&M and UT-Austin were once again the only profit-makers, collecting $65 million and $7.8 million more than they spent, respectively. A&M will likely have to use that excess revenue to pay off capital debt on its new football stadium, however.
A&M and UT-Austin continue to loom large over the state, combining to bring in almost three-quarters of the revenue among Texas FBS schools.
UT-Austin reclaimed its place as the state’s top revenue generator in 2016-17, a spot held by A&M for the previous two years. Although its football and men’s basketball teams had relatively disappointing seasons, a revenue jump of almost $27 million might have eased the pain. But expenses also went up $35 million, thanks in part to increased severance payments, facility debt and lease payments.
Spending more money than you earn is a regular occurrence for the majority of athletics departments in Texas. The schools make up for those losses by collecting student fees and transfers from their universities’ general coffers.
UH, North Texas, Texas State, Texas Tech, UTSA and UTEP used more than $116 million in student fees and institutional funds combined to prop up their athletics departments in 2016-17 alone. A&M and UT-Austin didn’t collect any student fees or institutional funds, according to the reports.
Texas Tech’s attendance boon
A historic season on the court saw Texas Tech’s men’s basketball team reach its first ever Elite Eight. That success was felt significantly off the court as well.
Fans turned out in droves in Lubbock as the men’s basketball team soared to a 17-1 home record at United Supermarkets Arena. Both total and average game attendance reached their highest points since 2002, and the total attendance of more than 190,000 represents a 13 percent increase from last year.
That bump will translate into almost $400,000 in new revenue from a year ago, according to Robert Giovannetti, the program’s senior associate athletics director for external operations and strategic communications.
That extra money was helpful, since the athletics department spent $4 million more than it earned in 2016-17.
UT-Austin recruiting costs go up, but performance still lags
UT-Austin's basketball team succeeded in luring some top athletes to campus. The most notable was Mohamed Bamba, who will soon be drafted into the NBA.
But that came at a cost. Coach Shaka Smart’s men’s team saw its recruiting expenses increase 380 percent from 2014-15 to $707,446. And the lavish spending didn't quite lead to wins.
While the team did make this year’s NCAA Tournament, it exited in the first round after losing to the University of Nevada. The team’s final record was 19-15. Many UT-Austin fans consider Smart’s first three years as coach disappointing.
The university’s women’s program, meanwhile, only increased its recruiting expenses by 9 percent over the past three years. But they’ve reached at least the third round of the NCAA tournament the past four years.
Annie Daniel and Matthew Watkins contributed to this report.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, the Texas State University System and Texas Tech University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.