Will Athletic Budgets be Used to Classify Division I Schools After 2010?

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Will Athletic Budgets be Used to Classify Division I Schools After 2010?
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The NCAA imposed a moratorium until 2010 on any schools starting the upgrade process to move up to Division I. The stated reason was to reconsider the rules a school will follow to become or remain a member of Division I.

In the past, the NCAA has tried to use other criteria to force financially underperforming universities down to a less expensive level of competition.

In the 1990s, the NCAA insisted any schools who wanted to play football at the IA (now called FBS) level had to have a stadium that seated 30,000. A number of schools proceeded to gather funds to do costly stadium upgrades to 30,000. In many cases, like Buffalo, EMU, and UNT, these stadium uprgades had the net result of discouraging fan attendance. Several schools were forced to drop football.

In the 2000s, the NCAA had a rule requiring schools to maintain a multi-year average of 15,000. A number of schools failed to meet these requirements, including a couple that generally draw season averages high above this threshhold.

Presumeably, the NCAA has not enforced these rules due to the number of schools they would be throwing out of the FBS level. Presumably, the seemingly unenforcable nature of this rule is what has lead to the moritorium on all moves.

It is very conceiveable, if not likely, the next threshold the NCAA may impose to keep teams that lack the financial support to play at the FBS level out of the FBS classification may be based on athletic budgets.

For fans of the business side of collegiate sports, that is an excuse to pour over the athletic budgets of division I schools and reach some conclusions!

Are you ready for some football...budgets?

(All numbers are from 2007. I didn't list them all out, as the numbers are far less important than the approximate ballpark. In general, most schools stay in the same approximate ballpark from year to year, but some schools do spike up in some years and some are unequivocally expanding their athletic budgets like UNT, UTSA, Texas State, and one or two other Sun Belt schools.)

BCS tier athletic budgets

1. Ohio State 109M
2. Tennessee 92M
3. Florida
4. Texas
5. Wisconsin
6. Southern California
7. Louisiana State
8. Penn State
9. Alabama
10. Iowa
11. Nebraska
12. Michigan State
13. Texas A&M
14. Oklahoma
15. Auburn
16. Michigan
17. Virginia
18. Stanford
19. Georgia
20. UCLA
21. Arkansas
22. Kentucky
23. North Carolina
24. Kansas
25. Notre Dame
26. South Carolina
27. Boston College
28. Virginia Tech
29. Minnesota
30. Purdue
31. Arizona State
32. Connecticut
33. California
34. Louisville
35. Texas Tech
36. Washington
37. Oregon
38. Miami (Fla.)
39. Georgia Tech
40. Missouri
41. Clemson
42. Duke
43. Maryland
44. Oregon State
45. Illinois
46. Rutgers
47. Syracuse
48. West Virginia
49. Oklahoma State
50. Indiana
51. North Carolina State
52. Arizona
53. Northwestern -41M
54. Baylor -40M
55. Florida State -40M
56. Colorado - 40M
57. Kansas State -40M
58. Texas Christian (non-BCS) - 39M
59. Vanderbilt - 39M
60. Pittsburgh - 37M
61. Iowa State - 37M
62. Wake Forest - 37M
63. Cincinnati - 34M
64. Mississippi - 34M

This is where non-BCS FBS schools start en masse.

I think looking at the above the idea that pops into my mind is how much is membership in a BCS conference worth? Specifically, in terms of increased TV revenue, bowl payouts, increased visitor attendance by being in a conference of haves...What dollar value does that equate to? $5 million? $10 million? More?

I look at the bottom 10-12 BCS schools and wonder if the rest of their leagues would love to kick most of them out if they had a clear path to it. (Obviously, not Northwestern, Colorado, WSU, or FSU, but the rest...?) What would the budget of those schools look like in lesser conferences? $30 million? Less?

FBS Tier athletic budgets

65. Brigham Young -31M
66. San Diego State -30M
67. Washington State (BCS) -30M
68. Central Florida -30M
69. Memphis
70. Houston
71. South Florida (BCS) -28M
72. Southern Methodist
73. Hawaii
74. New Mexico
75. Rice
76. Utah
77. Temple
78. Mississippi State (BCS) -26M
79. UNLV
80. East Carolina
81. Fresno State
82. Tulsa
83. Miami (Oxford)
84. Boise State
85. UAB
86. Wyoming
87. Texas-El Paso -21M
88. Central Michigan
89. Nevada
90. Buffalo
91. New Mexico State - 19M
92. Tulane
93. Marshall
94. Eastern Michigan
95. Western Michigan
96. Ohio
97. Colorado State
98. Florida International
99. Akron
100. Middle Tennessee State
101. Western Kentucky
102. Kent State
103. Toledo
104. San Jose State
105. Northern Illinois -16M
106. North Texas -16M
107. Bowling Green -16M
108. Ball State -16M
109. Southern Mississippi -15M
110. Florida Atlantic -14M
111. Troy -13M
112. Utah State - 13m
113. Idaho -12M
114. Louisiana Tech -12M
115. Arkansas State - 10M
116. Louisiana-Lafayette -10M
117. Louisiana-Monroe -7M

I was a little suprised by a few of these schools. I thought the top three non-BCS would be BYU, Utah, TCU. Not quite.

NMSU and SD State have much larger athletic budgets than I thought. (How the hell does SD State not kill the WAC in football With that budget and sole ownership of football hotbed San Diego? There is something seriously wrong with that athletic department/school.)

Miami (Oxford) and Buffalo were surprises to me as well. CSU's budget was suprisingly small to me. Southern Miss being No. 109 is not a huge shock. It is a very poor state. I wonder if Ol' Miss and Miss St. would be any higher if the SEC dismissed them and they had to play a C-USA schedule.


FCS Schools' Athletic Budgets

1. Pennsylvania -27M
2. Delaware - 25M
3. James Madison - 25M
4. New Hampshire - 22M
5. Villanova - 22M
6. Massachusetts -21M
7. Stony Brook -21M
8. Lehigh -20M
9. Hofstra -19M
10. Colgate -18M
11. Liberty
12. Yale
13. Rhode Island -17M
14. Southern Illinois
15. Cornell
16. Northeastern
17. Princeton
18. Delaware State
19. Harvard
20. California-Davis
21. Holy Cross
22. Columbia -16M
23. Richmond -15M
24. Coastal Carolina
25. Old Dominion
26. Bucknell
27. William & Mary
28. Dartmouth
29. Sacred Heart
30. Maine -14M
31. Towson
32. Furman
33. Montana
34. Northern Iowa
35. Missouri State -13M
36. Montana State
37. Texas State -13M
38. Illinois State -12M
39. Brown
40. Cal Poly
41. Sacramento State
42. Elon
43. Albany
44. North Dakota
45. Lafayette
46. Eastern Kentucky
47. Northern Arizona
48. Wofford
49. Gardner-Webb
50. North Dakota State
51. Eastern Illinois
52. The Citadel -10M
53. Youngstown State
54. American
55. Appalachian State
56. Monmouth
57. Chattanooga
58. Jacksonville State
59. Samford
60. Robert Morris -9M
61. College of Charleston
62. Howard
63. Georgia State
64. Virginia Military Institute
65. Stephen F. Austin
66. Tennessee State
67. Indiana State
68. Davidson
69. Portland State
70. Bethune-Cookman
71. Central Connecticut State
72. Murray State
73. Campbell
74. Idaho State
75. South Dakota State
76. South Dakota
77. Iona
78. Eastern Washington -8M
79. Wagner
80. Western Illinois
81. Southern
82. Marist
83. North Carolina-Greensboro
84. Jacksonville
85. Southeast Missouri
86. Western Carolina
87. North Carolina A&T
88. Tennessee Tech
89. Saint Francis (PA)
90. South Carolina State -7M
91. Northern Colorado
92. Sam Houston State
93. Morgan State
94. Hampton
95. Tennessee-Martin
96. Central Arkansas
97. Southeastern Louisiana
98. Charleston Southern -7M
99. Georgia Southern - 6M
100. Presbyterian
101. Norfolk State
102. Northwestern State
103. Jackson State
104. Weber State
105. Grambling State
106. Texas Southern
107. Southern Utah
108. Alabama State - 6M
109. McNeese State - 5M
110. Austin Peay
111. Alabama A&M
112. Florida A&M
113. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
114. Morehead State
115. Nicholls State -5M
116. North Carolina Central - 4M
117. Prairie View A&M - 4M
118. Mississippi Valley State - 4M
119. Winston-Salem State - 4M
120. Alcorn State - 3M
121. Savannah State - 2M

It is interesting to see there are 93 FCS teams with larger budgets than ULM. Some would take that to mean all of those schools could potentially play FBS football if a conference was despirate enough. I disagree strongly with that view.

In my opinion, it should be looked at from exactly the opposite perspective. It is more something that should raise red flags about the situations facing schools on the bottom end of the FBS budget list. If your target school projects as a similar FBS program to one of those FBS schools, you may want to seriously rethink moving up.

I think that to look at things more clearly, you have to see if the target school has the kind of good support (attendance) needed for FBS and the enrollment (or for privates, endowment) to make up the annual budget shortfall from upgrading. 

That said, somewhere around 70 FCS schools are ALREADY running at $9M budgets or more. I think you have to get those budgets up to about $15-20 million to be stable at the FBS level, but if those schools have most of the essentials (acceptable stadiums, strong attendance, and can leverage students via student fees or fans and alumni via endowments) they could successfully make the jump to FBS.

There are some obvious schools (Savannah, Alcorn) that look a bit in over their head at the FCS level, but honestly, not as many as I thought. Still, I would prefer to see FCS have a minimum attendance threshold for schools and conferences—say, 6,000 or so—and a separation of football from D1 status.

If that were combined with a 96-team NCAA bracket with 32 slots earmarked for DII teams, you could strengthen the sports and make the schools' programs more profitable. A lot of these schools would be a lot more profitable playing DII football, but don't want to give up the NCAA tourney revenue.

The glaring point to me is how many of the top bugets are on the East Coast...even discounting the small Patriot League universities. Delaware, James Madison, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Stony Brook, Hofstra, Liberty, Rhode Island, Northeastern, Old Dominion, William & Mary, Maine.

Discounting the stadium situations of some and just looking at the schools, that could quickly become a very nice FBS conference. Temple, Army, and Navy might want in. Buffalo might as well.

It is also quite impressive when you look at the Ivy League schools. They provide athletic opportunities for an astounding number of student athletes. Quite admirable.

Finally the athletic budgets of non-football playing IAAA schools

1. Georgetown -27M
2. Saint John's -27M
3. Boston University -22M
4. Marquette -22M
5. Denver -21M
6. George Washington -17M
7. Fordham -17M
8. Dayton -16M
9 Seton Hall
10. Wichita State
11. Providence
12. San Diego
13. Loyola Marymount -15M
14. DePaul -14M
15. Vermont -13M
16. Santa Clara
17. Pacific
18. Fairfield
19. George Mason
20. California-Santa Barbara
21. Pepperdine
22. Virginia Commonwealth
23. Drexel
24. Creighton
25. Long Beach State
26. Saint Joseph's
27. Xavier -11M
28. California-Irvine
29. Drake
30. Saint Louis
31. Binghamton
32. Quinnipiac
33. Bradley -10M
34. San Francisco -10M
35. La Salle -10M
36. Long Island
37. Butler
38. Saint Mary's -10M
39. Wisconsin-Milwaukee
40. Gonzaga
41. Rider
42. Loyola (MD) -9M
43. Charlotte
44. Illinois-Chicago
45. Wright State
46. Portland
47. Cal State Fullerton
48. Duquesne
49. Maryland-Baltimore County
50. Hartford
51. Valparaiso-9M
52. Oral Roberts
53. Winthrop
54. Texas-San Antonio -9M
55. Cal State Northridge
56. Cleveland State
57. Siena
58. South Alabama
59. Niagara
60. Oakland
61. Stetson
62. California-Riverside
63. Evansville
64. Canisius
65. Belmont
66. Arkansas-Little Rock
67. Loyola (Il)
68. Manhattan
69. Missouri-Kansas City
70. Mount Saint Mary's
71. Cal State Bakersfield
72. Detroit
73. North Carolina-Wilmington
74. Saint Bonaventure
75. New Jersey Tech
76. Radford
77. Texas-Arlington - 6M
78. North Florida
79. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
80. Kennesaw State
81. Lipscomb
82. Wisconsin-Green Bay
83. High Point
84. Saint Peter's
85. Centenary
86. Utah Valley University -5M
87. Fairleigh thingyinson
88. Longwood
89. Mercer
90. East Tennessee State
91. Texas-Pan American
92. Lamar
93. IUPU-Fort Wayne
95. Chicago State -4M
96. Maryland-Eastern Shore
97. Florida Gulf Coast
98. Coppin State -3M
99. New Orleans -3M
100. North Carolina-Asheville -3M
101. South Carolina-Upstate -3M
102. Saint Francis (NY) -3M

While stadium availabilty is obviously the final arbitrar, with 60 IAAA schools with budgets over $8 million and 21 with budgets over $12 million, it is easy to envision a lot of these schools adding football one day soon.

One of the most glaring is Wichita State. They have an enrollment of 15,000 and have a 30,000-seat Cessna Football Stadium being wasted on track. They could likely support football, could pay the budget shortfall for football and the matching women's scholarships, and don't really have a lot of local competition for the public's entertainment dollars.

Additionally, they have the MVFC—one of the elite FCS conferences—waiting for them and are near a host of OOC team at the FBS level as well as at the top of the DII level who could travel fans.

The VCU situation practically makes my brain bleed so I am going to leave that alone.

Lamar is glaring. With a 2007 budget of $4.4 million, a stadium seating 17,500 , a small DMA, no inviting FBS conference, and an enrollment of 13,000, on the surface the idea of jumping to FBS seems daunting.

But Lamar has some things in its favor. The region is football crazy. Since talks of football have gone around Lamar's enrollment has gone (back) up by about 3,000. There was talk of this being the kind of situation where FBS football might push university enrollment growth, and that does seem to be what has occurred. Students voted en masse to pay athletic fees to get football back at Lamar.

The 79 percent to 21 percent results speaks volumes about student body support. At the time of the vote, it was estimated the fee would raise $2 million for the reinstatement of football. I think the number may end up being closer to $3.5 million when 2011 rolls around, bringing the budget to about $8 million.

That may not be enough to get them over any new NCAA upgrade thresholds based off budget, but it will get them into the upper half of southland budgets. With a totally rebuilt stadium ($20 million renovation). If Lamar enrollment hits say 15,000 by 2015, that could add another $500,000 to their budget under that athletic fee.

If their students decide to bump up the athletic fee to the Texas maximum of $20 at that point, with an enrollment of 15,000 that would yield another $5 million for an FBS budget of about $14 million. That is a ton more viable at the FBS level than ULM.

One other item to note. Lamar is a member of the Texas State system, which means student fee increases go to the board governing the Texas State system. Unlike schools in the UT system like UTPA or UTA, they won't have UT politics leading to delays or an outright rejection of any student approved athletic fee increase. UT may not want any large Texas publics taking up FBS football. On the other hand, Texas State, as the largest member university in the Texas State system, can use more FBS members as they need a conference home. SHSU is also a member of the TS system.

With the exception of UNO, the last seven schools hit me as DII schools in disguise. Perhaps it says something very pointed about IAAA status. Maybe part of the requirements of IAAA/FCS should require a minimum of a $5 million budget? For FBS schools $15 million minus bodybag game payouts? Could that be where the NCAA might be heading?

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