Pay for play: A look at Butler

July, 12, 2011
7/12/11
10:45
AM ET
Editor’s note: ESPN.com is taking a closer look this week at the possibility of paying college athletes. Can schools even afford the pay for play option? Here's an overview of Butler’s financial situation.


Butler has a well-deserved reputation of having an athletic department that gets more bang for its buck.

Consider that in 2010 when the men’s basketball program made its Cinderella run to the national championship game against Duke, its expenditures that year totaled $2.8 million, a fraction of what the Blue Devils spent.

The Bulldogs’ appearance in that game resulted in record-setting amounts of donations and athletic merchandise sales along with large increases in enrollment and ticket sales. The athletic department even commissioned a study that showed its NCAA tournament appearance generated $639,273,881.82 worth of print, television and online publicity that the school would have otherwise had to pay for.

The athletic department is doing just fine financially in order to balance the budget, and athletic director Barry Collier believes in a hypothetical scenario in which pay-for-play for student-athletes were mandated, the school could be able to provide.

The cost of attendance at Butler, a private institution, is an estimated $45,478, and a full scholarship for a student-athlete at the school includes tuition, room and board, fees and books. Collier could see how the school might be able to provide the estimated $3,000 in indirect costs, including transportation.

“Pay-for-play is one thing,” Collier said. “Providing the cost of attendance defines something different philosophically.

“It’s not enough to stop us from doing it. We would do it if passed. We could handle the additional cost.”

Aside from its overall financial health, for Butler, other factors make it feasible to possibly provide such compensation. The majority of its student-athletes are not on full scholarships. In fact, its entire football team could be removed from the equation since it competes in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League.

Also, Collier said he generally doesn’t see on the Butler campus cases in which student-athletes are in destitute circumstances and being used by a system in which a college education isn’t sufficient compensation.

“We have such a strong student-athlete culture here,” Collier said. “Our kids do the work and want the benefit of the education, and they greatly value that. From that standpoint, we don’t have a really declared position of not doing or doing it [paying for entire cost of education]. It’s not that big of a difference. If it’s not going to make that much difference, why do it is the other side of that.

“We’ve talked about the subject. It’d be interesting to see where it goes. It‘s not a pressing problem for us.”

What a full scholarship entails: $43,278 (includes tuition, room & board, fees, books.) -- for 2011-12 from school website

Cost of attendance: $45,478 -- for 2011-12 from school website

Butler - for 2009-10 from U.S. Department of Education database

Football (94 athletes) Revenue: $540,145 Expense: $540,145

Men's basketball (15 athletes) R: $2,822,892 E: $2,822,892

Other sports -- Men's (5 teams/146 athletes) R: $1,928,971 E: $1,928,971

Other sports -- Women's (8 teams/ 175 athletes) R: $3,730,862 E: $3,730,862

Total: 0 (revenue – expense) $9,022,870 $9,022,870

Student fees: $144/semester

Amount athletics receives from student fees: Undisclosed because Butler is a private institution. “It’s not a big number,” athletic director Barry Collier said. “The larger number is the university-allocated funding we receive that helps us meet our expenses.”

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