Ravell Call, Deseret News
This is part one in a two-part series.
BYU is home to 21 sports teams and about 550 athletes, ranging from quarterbacks and point guards to champion divers and record-breaking sprinters.
But when it comes to BYU's bottom line, the only sport that really matters is football.
Of all the sports that make up BYU's athletic budget, football by far exceeds all others in turning a profit. In fact, except for men's basketball, all other sports lose money.
In 2009, football made a 53 percent profit and men's basketball made 8 percent. Everything else was in the red.
Even with the unprofitable sports, BYU Athletics still made $5.5 million in profit, according to data obtained from the U.S. Department of Education. The reason the other sports survive is because all the sports’ revenues and expenses come from the athletic budget as a whole, said Dallan Moody, BYU’s associate athletics director over finance.
“Revenue comes into the big pot, and so all the expenses come out of the big pot,” Moody said.
Of those team revenues coming in, football accounted for a little over 60 percent of them in 2009. Men’s basketball pitched in almost 15 percent and women’s basketball less than three percent. All other men’s sports combined made up almost 10 percent and all other women’s sports combined made up about 12 percent. (BYU sports not officially sanctioned by the NCAA, like men’s soccer and rugby, are not covered by the Athletics Department budget.)
As for total team expenses, football took back 42 percent of 2009’s big pot. With an almost $300,000 difference between what football makes and what football spends, the other sports can get away with collectively contributing less than 40 percent of BYU’s team revenues and using up almost 58 percent of the expenses.
Moody said such a football-focused budget is typical of a university like BYU.
“Consistently football is a big money producer and brings in a lot of revenue to the school, definitely,” Moody said.
Revenues mainly come from ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, TV/radio broadcasting contracts and donations. While some of these sources are not directly related to any particular sport, Moody said football might still be a factor, especially in determining where to send donation money.
“You have people donating to the university, to the athletic program,” Moody said. “Do you allocate that to football? Or do you just allocate it just to a general, non-specific category? Because are those people making donations based on how well the football team’s doing? Or is there a more general reason why they’re doing it?”
Tim Powers, BYU’s head coach for the swim and dive teams, said his teams benefit from some donations, but it’s not enough without the football money.
“There are donations that come in and we get to retain some of that. We have alumni that send money,” Powers said. “But it doesn’t begin to pay for the programs. Football, especially a football program that’s producing revenues, either at the gate or with TV revenues, is going to pay for entire athletic programs.”
Powers said football is a foundation for any university athletics program.
“Football at any Division I institution, especially if they’re successful, pays for all the programs,” Powers said. “That’s not unusual. A football game at the football stadium is what makes sports possible.”
To Mark Robison, head coach for the men’s track team, ignoring or forgetting football or men’s basketball is absurd.
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