BATON ROUGE, La. — USA Today released its annual report on NCAA Division I athletic revenues Thursday, which gives us insight into the finances of LSU’s athletic department as well as its SEC counterparts.
As is the case with anything involving numbers, context is the key to understanding why they’re important. For example: the numbers provided here are a snapshot of the 2015-16 year rather than a real-time assessment of how things stand following the 2016-17 school year.
The following five figures are the ones most interesting and relevant to understanding LSU’s athletic operation.
LSU ranked seventh nationally in revenue in 2015-16 with a budget of $141,651,460. That puts LSU third in the SEC behind Texas A&M and Alabama. Overall, LSU increased revenues by $3 million over its 2014-15 level.
That’s how much money LSU made on ticket sales alone. That placed LSU at second in the SEC in ticket revenue behind Texas A&M. The order of the rest of the SEC may come as a bit of a surprise. (As a private school, Vanderbilt’s numbers are not available to the public).
|Texas A&M||47.78 million|
|South Carolina||25.23 million|
|Mississippi State||16.02 million|
One factor in LSU and Texas A&M’s success in ticket revenue? Baseball. The Tigers and Aggies were the only two teams to turn profits of more than $1 million at the gate from their baseball programs.
That’s the total bill the athletic department doled out in athletic scholarships.
Why’s that figure significant?
Because it is nearly double the amount of money LSU spent on scholarships ($8.84 million) in 2010. The state made significant cuts to higher education during the administration of former Gov. Bobby Jindal, and that policy bears out in a significant increase in tuition costs.
Louisiana’s other three public FBS programs — Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe — also have faced significant increases in scholarship expenditure since 2010.
This is the amount that LSU made from booster contributions in 2015-16.
Not too shabby, right?
Though it may seem that way, LSU is actually in the midst of a two-year decline in booster contributions. In 2014, the program set an all-time high with $49.33 million in donations. That figure declined to $39.47 million in 2015 before taking another dip last year.
Given that data, it’s not surprising that athletic director Joe Alleva felt emboldened to remove Les Miles four games into the 2016 season after flirting with the idea the previous fall.
One reason not to panic over the decrease in booster contributions? An absurd increase in funding from licensing and media revenue.
LSU earned $57,059,301 from rights and licensing in 2016 — a $17 million jump from two years earlier. So if you’re wondering how the Tigers can afford the buyouts for Miles and Johnny Jones’ contracts, that’s a pretty good place to start.