Commentary

NCAA: Where does the money go?

Originally Published: July 12, 2011
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

When NCAA president Mark Emmert was asked earlier this year why college sports' governing body didn't sponsor an Ultimate Frisbee championship, he suggested the NCAA didn't have a "tsunami of cash" at its disposal.

But an examination of the NCAA's 2010-11 operating budget suggests it at least has very deep pockets.

According to an NCAA budget released Feb. 15, the Indianapolis-based group expected to rake in $757 million through TV and marketing rights fees, championship revenue and other services.

Nearly 60 percent of the NCAA's revenue will be distributed directly to its Division I members, according to its budget, with approximately $120 million earmarked for grants-in-aid and another $60 million for student assistance.

The NCAA says 96 percent of its annual revenue is returned to its member schools either in direct payments or in programs and services.

[+] EnlargeEmmert
Al Bello/Getty Images Nearly 60 percent of NCAA president Mark Emmert's 2010-11 operating budget revenue will be distributed directly to its Division I members.

According to the NCAA, it spends $30.6 million -- about 4 percent of its entire budget -- on administrative expenses and staff salaries.

"There's confusion about that because the numbers look big and people see a football stadium with 105,000 people in at Michigan or somewhere and do the math in their head and say, 'Well, this is all about money,'" Emmert said while speaking at Winthrop University in January. "We've got to bring attention to that so they know we're the conduit from how the money flows."

And a lot of money flows out of the NCAA. It distributes money to its members each year through six primary allocations:

Academic enhancement: The NCAA sends about $22.4 million to its members for enhancement of academic-support programs for Division I athletes. A payment of $66,000 is sent to each Division I institution in early June. In 2009-10, the NCAA distributed more than $1 million to Big East schools and more than $770,000 to SEC schools to help pay for academic support personnel and improve academic facilities.

Basketball fund: The NCAA expected to distribute $180.5 million to its Division I members that participated in the men's basketball tournament. The payments are determined by each school's performance in the tournament over a rolling six-year period.

In April 2010, the NCAA signed a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with CBS and Turner Sports to televise the men's tournament. The NCAA expects more than $740 million to be distributed to its members annually through 2024.

One unit -- or a payment of $239,664 -- will be paid to each school participating in each game, except for the championship game. The payments are sent to the conferences, which distribute the money among their schools, or independent institutions in mid-April.

After the 2010 men's tournament, the Big East was paid more than $23 million and the ACC received more than $18 million.

Conference grants: The NCAA distributed more than $8 million through conference grants, which are to be used to enhance officiating programs, compliance and enforcement, diversity, and drug and gambling education. Each conference received a payment of $251,097 in 2009-10.

Grants-in-aid: The NCAA distributes more than $111 million to its Division I schools based on the number of scholarships a school awarded the previous school year. According to the NCAA, a school that awarded 80.48 scholarships received $30,006; a school that awarded 164.89 scholarships received $256,304; and a school that awarded 242.44 scholarships received $675,725.

In 2009-10, the Big Ten received more than $11 million from the NCAA to supplement its members' scholarships, and the SEC received more than $8 million.

• Sports sponsorships: The NCAA allocated more than $55 million to its Division I schools based on the number of varsity sports each school sponsored. Under NCAA guidelines, a member institution received a unit -- approximately $30,091 per sport -- for each sport beginning with the 14th sport.

A school that sponsored 16 sports received $90,274, and a school that sponsored 24 sports received $331,004. In 2009-10, the Ivy League received the biggest check, for more than $4.3 million. The Big Ten was paid more than $3.8 million, and the ACC received $3.2 million.

• Student assistance fund: The NCAA spends nearly $40 million for special assistance and student-athlete opportunity funds, which are designed to assist student-athletes who have exhausted their NCAA eligibility or are no longer able to participate in sports because of medical reasons.

In 2009-10, for example, schools spent nearly $20 million from the fund for educational expenses, more than $10 million for health and safety expenses, and more than $11 million on personal or family expenses.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball