Sports Subsidies And Other Excuses To Make Cool Graphs

Phil Miller at The Sports Economist wrote an excellent post on university subsidies of college athletics the other day. Using a data tool developed by ESPN, Miller compiled a table of the ten largest subsidies provided to athletics programs around the country. He then calculated subsidies at those schools as a percentage of the athletics program’s total operating revenue. Here’s the table, and his remarks, in full:

University Conference University subsidy Total operating revenues Proportion
UNLV Mountain West $19,275,082 $56,496,233 34.1%
Rutgers Big East $18,411,795 $64,203,255 28.7%
Central Michigan MAC $16,457,883 $24,703,101 66.6%
Eastern Michigan MAC $15,334,255 $26,270,721 58.4%
Western Michigan MAC $13,815,834 $23,761,393 58.1%
Cincinnati Conference USA $13,457,464 $40,920,893 32.9%
Houston Conference USA $12,691,796 $33,034,483 38.4%
Wyoming WAC $12,153,845 $26,979,594 45.0%
Alabama-Birmingham Conference USA $10,519,032 $24,273,967 43.3%
Buffalo MAC $10,033,178 $25,385,009 39.5%
Overall Average $3,732,991 $52,091,327 7.2%

“Given that UNLV, for example, is probably going to fire tenured faculty to deal with what amounts to a “fiscal collapse”, I find it hard to believe the UNLV athletic department enhances the value of the school by at least $19.275 million.”

I too, find that sort of hard to believe. In fact I find it hard to believe that there are more than five schools in the country could justify that large an athletics stipend. Just to make sure, I used the same data as Miller to compile a graph of university subsidies at schools with revenues of more than $20 million per year.

University Subsidies (Revenues>$20,000,000/year)

Fear not if you couldn’t find UNR’s little dot on the graph, our subsidy of athletics is a little less than $150,000, or less than one percent of our total operating revenue.

That said, you do have to spend money (expenses) to make money (revenue). But what do university athletic programs tend to spend money on? And how do they make it in the first place (besides, you know, just having it handed to them by the school in the form of a subsidy) ?

To answer those questions–and because I really like graphs–I just plain went crazy on Google Fusion. See below for a bunch of distributions plotting program expenses and revenue (X axis) against various major line items (Y axis). Sorry I couldn’t figure out how to embed them on the blog. I tried. Also, this isn’t my data story assignment, so I won’t really offer any analysis regarding correlations in these plots, even though I would like to. You know how to read scatter plots and bar graphs, so draw your own conclusions…

Expenses/Revenue *all DIV I schools*



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