It’s not a major surprise that Texas A&M’s athletic department reaped the NCAA’s highest total revenue for the 2014-15 fiscal year, at $192.6 million (source: USA TODAY Sports).
Generally speaking, the Aggies ($73 million uptick in revenue from 2013-14) enjoy advantages that few other schools/athletic departments can match, thanks to a three-pronged foundation of deep-pocketed donors, consistent varsity-sports success (the hoops team may have forged the greatest comeback in NCAA tournament history) and one of the nation’s highest main-campus enrollments (nearly 60,000 students in 2015).
Plus, from a football standpoint, Texas A&M resides in the country’s most successful and lucrative conference (the SEC earned $527.4 million for the 2014-15 school year); and Kyle Field’s massive renovation has improved the overall seating capacity to 102,000-plus — ranking in the top five nationally.
No, here’s the real shocker: For the 2014-15 fiscal year, Texas A&M had a reported surplus of $83.3 million — an absurd figure which nearly matched Clemson’s total-revenue tally during that span (roughly $83.5 million).
And yet, A&M officials were quick to throw some water onto USA TODAY‘s findings, claiming only a budget surplus of $7 million (general math: total revenue – total expenditures) … thus raising fewer eyebrows.
In the business, it’s known as creative accounting.
Either way, it’s good to be a part of the Texas A&M family these days — other than maybe Johnny Manziel (for obvious reasons).
The Kyle Field redevelopment plan (above) was an absolute home run; and the Aggies (36-16 during the Kevin Sumlin era) could be on the precipice of a landmark football season this fall — assuming they can find stability at quarterback (Trevor Knight, Jake Hubenak).
The Aggies are loaded with returning blue-chip talent, namely defensive end Myles Garrett (the possible No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft) and Christian Kirk (arguably the best receiving prospect for the 2018 draft); and for 2016, SEC Country has A&M going 4-0 in non-conference action (including a season-opening win over UCLA) and then 5-3 in SEC play — with narrow defeats to Alabama, LSU and Tennessee.
Therein lies the crux of being part of the vaunted SEC West — easily college football’s most challenging division (occasionally tougher than the NFL’s AFC South):
Texas A&M might have the requisite talent to compete for a national championship … but it’s also a moot issue if the Aggies cannot eclipse the likes of Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss in divisional play.
After all, in this age of the College Football Playoff, the committee only places conference champions into the semifinal pairings.
Which brings us to this: Kyle Field’s $450 million expansion generated an unprecedented number of private donations; but with that project completed, Texas A&M must now overcome the proverbial hangover stage of fundraising — and tap into the next great revenue stream.
From a performance-based revenue standpoint, the football Aggies could reach the aforementioned College Football Playoff. The baseball Aggies could reach the College World Series. The track and field Aggies could pursue a national championship (indoor/outdoor); and the basketball Aggies can keep building their program to an elite-level caliber.
As a side venture, though, perhaps Texas A&M should launch a proprietary “accounting” app for smartphones, in advance of next year’s Tax Day.
Bottom line: If the Aggies’ number-crunchers can convert an $83 million operating profit into only $7 million on a balance sheet … just imagine what they could do for their loyal base of deep-pocketed, tax-paying alumni.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.