RUSTON — There’s a reason football programs are often referred to as the lifeblood of athletic departments.
Take, for example, a school like Louisiana Tech, which backs up the narrative with its financials. In 2015, the football program accounted for more than 30 percent of the total athletic revenue, bringing in $7.3 million in operating revenue, according to documents.
But, did you ever wonder where a football program receives its money and where it spends its money? An audit released last week by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor in Baton Rouge provides a breakdown of where $7,340,119 in revenue came from along with $7,217,168 in expenses for the 2015-16 fiscal year. The audits, performed on an annual basis, are independently done throughout the state and used to evaluate athletic departments.
Ticket sales, which were up 22 percent in 2015, from $1,211,959 to $1,482,482, served as the second-biggest revenue source for the football program behind $2,064,127 in direct institutional support. Game guarantees and contributions accounted for an additional $1.2 million and $1.1 million, respectively.
Together, those four areas accounted for more than $5.8 million, or almost 80 percent of Tech’s operating revenue.
The increase in ticket sales can be attributed to Tech having one more home game (six) in 2015 than it had in 2014 (fifth). Plus, Tech had two of its bigger crowds in terms of paid attendance via Southern and UL Lafayette.
Fifth on the list came from a trip to the postseason.
Tech reported a net gain of $61,075 from its trip to the New Orleans Bowl ($444,437 in revenue and $383,362 in expenses). Tech beat Arkansas State for its second consecutive bowl victory. Numbers for a 2014 trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl weren’t included in last year’s audit.
Things like parking and concessions sales accounted for $67,897, up 34 percent from 2014’s number of $50,373 but not nearly as high as the $82,762 brought in during the 2012 season.
In theory, Tech netted $122,951 from football in 2015-16, although that number is propped up by more than $2 million in direct institutional support.
The audit notes the Louisiana Tech University Foundation, Inc. increased its contributions, in part, to offset a $1 million decrease in game guarantees and $400,00 decrease in conference distributions. The foundation’s contribution totaled $2,788,408 to the athletic department.
Tech brought in $1.2 million in game guarantees, a number down more than a $1 million from 2014 when Tech collected more than $2.3 million to play at Oklahoma and Auburn.
In 2015, Tech received $700,000 for a trip to Kansas State and $500,000 to play at Mississippi State. The lower amount to play at Mississippi State stems from an agreement that amounted to a three-game series with a game guarantee and a home-and-home series with no money exchanged. The first part of the home-and-home series comes in 2017 when Tech hosts Mississippi State on Sept. 9.
For programs like Tech, game guarantees are important, and needed, parts of the budget. Take for instance 2014 when 34 percent of the total revenue came from game guarantees.
Almost $1 million ($925,849 to be exact) came from a combination of media rights ($332,249), NCAA distributions ($296,164) and conference distributions ($297,436). Those three numbers are more than double from 2014 when Tech received $529,374.
Tech’s biggest expenses were student aid ($2,134,771) and staff salaries ($1,884,708 from the coaching staff and an additional $251,810 for support staff and administrative compensation). The audit notes how student aid expenses increased due to a 10 percent increase in tuition and fees, a 3.8 percent increase in housing rates and a 3.15 percent increase in meal plan rates.
Team travel ($711,118), equipment, uniforms and supplies ($513,666), game expenses ($174,795) and student-athlete means ($132,685) totaled more $1.5 million. Tech spent an additional half million dollars on game guarantees, $149,999 in recruiting and $12,422 on fundraising, marketing and promotions.
Notable decreases in expenses came from equipment, down $289,999 from 2014, and team travel, down $182,484 from 2014.
Additional expenses included $187,420 in “other operating expenses” and $178,283 in direct overhead and administrative expenses.