Vanderbilt and the Redistribution of SEC Wealth

Eric AdamsContributor IDecember 4, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 15:  Members of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrate after defeating the Ole Miss Rebels 31-17 on September 15, 2007 at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In the past two weeks, Hofstra University and Northeastern University both decided to discontinue their football programs.

Hofstra, which had fielded a team since 1937, has produced a number of NFL players. The school president said that the cost of the team far exceeded the possible return of an FCS program.

According to the school's official press release : "The net cost of the football program is approximately $4.5 million, including scholarships, and the savings generated will be redirected to fund new faculty lines, academic programs and need-based scholarships."

The school cited poor attendance and the economic downturn as reasons why the decision was made now.

As small universities are hemorrhaging money via college football, our beloved Vanderbilt Commodores are in a much better situation. As part of the SEC juggernaut, Vandy receives a LOT of dinero.

My goal is to take a look at the amount of money Vanderbilt receives from its football team by being a part of the Southeastern Conference. Specifically, the amount of money that the university receives from bowl payouts that other member schools have earned. On the surface, it doesn't appear that Vandy is holding up its share.

*As a disclaimer, I'll try to be as accurate as possible with the figures. Please feel free to correct me (or call me stupid ) if I make a mistake.

Let me stop for a second and give a quick explanation of the money that has been brought in by the SEC. As part of the SEC's revenue sharing plan, the conference basically piles all of the money into a pot and divides it into 13 shares—12 member schools and the conference itself.

In June, the SEC announced that the amount to be shared for the 2008-2009 fiscal year would be $132.5 MILLION . That's roughly $10 million that Vanderbilt pockets just for being in the conference. That number includes revenue from TV deals, basketball/football championships, bowl games, etc.

Now lets get specific to the money brought in by football. The largest chunk is from the monster TV deals that the SEC has. The TV contract alone was worth $52 million.

On top of that was the $24 million for bowl games. Each conference team that plays in a bowl game gets to keep a good portion of that money for themselves. However, the rest is pooled and distributed between all 12 schools. Regardless if a team went to a bowl, they still receive $2 million from the conference at seasons end.

Vanderbilt held up its own weight last season. The Music City Bowl appearance fed the pot and helped the other schools out. That hasn't happened this year. As Vandy sits at home during this bowl season, they can still count on a $2 million+ check for doing nothing.

As the only private school in the conference, we all know that Vandy has a lot working against it. In particular, the academic standards really hamper the coaches ability to consistently bring in top-level talent. Because of this, and a long list of other reasons, Vanderbilt has been to only three bowl games in the last 35 years. In that same time period, our friends in Knoxville have went to an amazing 28 bowls.

You gotta wonder what other member schools think about Vanderbilt football.

Are the 'Dores simply riding the coattails of the traditional football powerhouses?

Does the SEC benefit from having the Vanderbilt football team in the conference?

I think the Commodores more than hold up their end in basketball. As much as I love watching the football team, I can't help but think that the SEC is simply subsidising our team most years. I'm not suggesting that the SEC kick Vandy out, but I don't think they should reward bad teams with bowl money.

Let's say Vandy doesn't win a game for the next ten years. Based on the current model, the school will still get $40 million from the TV football contract and about $20 million from bowl payouts. That's a pretty sweet deal. If the revenue sharing was based somewhat on performance, it would force schools to not settle for mediocrity.

Regardless of how you feel about the SEC's revenue sharing, you gotta admit that Vandy is in a sweet spot.

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