Alabama athletes celebrate after winning the 2012 SEC Championship game. In 2010, the SEC spent an average of $163,931 per athlete. (Photo: David Goldman, AP)
Public universities competing in NCAA Division I sports spend as much as six times more per athlete than they spend to educate students, and likely for the first time per-athlete spending at schools in each of the six highest-profile football conferences topped $100,000 in 2010, an analysis of federal and school data finds.
Between 2005 and 2010, spending by athletic departments rose more than twice as fast as academic spending on a per-student basis.
Median per-athlete spending by 97 public institutions that compete in the top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision increased the most: 51%, to $92,000, between 2005 and 2010, while median spending on education increased 23%, to just under $14,000 per full-time student.
Meanwhile, tuition at four-year public universities increased an average of 38% and state and local funding rose just 2%, research shows.
At schools where athletic budgets top $70 million, ticket sales are the largest source of revenue, followed by contributions and payments for television agreements and participation in bowl games and tournaments, the report shows. But fewer than one in eight of the 202 Division I schools in the report generated more money than they spent in any given year between 2005 and 2010.
Mary Beth Marklein, USA TODAY