SEC, Florida continue to reign supreme in financial arms race during 2018-19 fiscal year

Fireworks go off while Gators fans sing a Tom Petty song between the third and fourth quarter during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Nov. 30. [Matt Pendleton/Correspondent]

Thanks to football, the University of Florida’s powerful economic engine, the University Athletic Association has posted another successful year financially, producing an operational revenue of $17.9 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019.

 That’s almost six million more than a year ago, when the UAA’s operational surplus was $12,039,389. 

 This year’s $17.9 million profit ranks third among SEC schools, behind Texas A&M ($43.7 million) and Georgia ($30.7 million). UF produced  $159.7 million in total operational revenue (fourth most in the SEC and ninth most in the nation) and had $141.8 million in expenses, which ranks seventh in the SEC and 16th in the nation. USA TODAY compiled the financial data in partnership with Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. USA TODAY published the annual database on Thursday.

 As it always does, the football program led the way for UF’s 21 sports teams in 2018-19, producing a profit of $47,950,819. The program had a total operational revenue of $87,450,485 to go along with expenses of $39,499,666.

 The figures are in UF’s annual financial report that was recently sent to the SEC Office. USA Today acquired a copy of the report.

 Men’s basketball was the only other UF program to make a profit, bringing in $2,455,291 in 2019. UF’s 19 other programs, which traditionally generate limited or no revenue, finished the year $33,528,175 in the red.

 Football’s largest revenues were generated by contributions from fans and boosters ($32,418,131), ticket sales ($26,106,819), media rights ($12,696,33), the SEC bowl distribution ($8,498,033) and bowl revenue ($2,696,050).

 The program’s biggest expenses were for coaches’ salaries ($12,050,286), game expenses ($5,446,663), team travel ($1,950,668) and bowl expenses ($1,760,352).

 Men’s basketball, the only other program to show a profit, had a total operational revenue of $12,172,678 and expenses of $9,717,387 for a total in the black of $2,455,291.

 Basketball’s biggest revenues came through media rights ($3,461,383), contributions ($2,825,945) and ticket sales ($2,400,413). The biggest expenses were for coaches’ salaries ($3,595,047), team travel ($1,274,007) and athletic facilities debt service, leases and rental fee ($1,090,611).

 The overall operational revenue for UF’s 21 programs was $159,706,937, with expenses of $141,829. The expenses are more than $7 million less than last year’s.

 In 2017, the overall athletic program had a profit of $17,375,976, with football generating a profit of $43,726,034. In 2016, the UAA’s overall profit was $20,133,9936, with football generating a profit of $47,803,655.

The coronavirus pandemic casts a murkier outlook for what athletic department ledgers will look like for the current fiscal year. Any disruptions to the football season, a cash cow for SEC athletic departments, would be expected to result in significant revenue decreases. Many schools are budgeting for decreases.

Total operating revenue 

Here’s a look at how SEC schools ranked in total operating revenue for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Schools are listed with their national rank in parentheses. 

Texas A&M (2): $212.7M

Georgia (5): $174M

Alabama* (7): $164M

Florida (9): $159.7M

LSU (10): $157.8M

Auburn (13): $152.5M

Kentucky (15): $150.4M

Tennessee (16): $143.8M

South Carolina (17): $140.7M

Arkansas (20): $137.5M

Mississippi State (30): $112.3M

Mississippi (34): $108.4M

Missouri (37): $106.6M

Total operating expenses

Here’s a look at how SEC schools ranked in total operating expenses for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Schools are listed with their national rank in parentheses. 

Alabama (4): $185.3M

Texas A&M (5): $169M

LSU (11): $149M

Kentucky (13): $144.9M

Georgia (14): $143.3M

Tennessee (15): $143M

Florida (16): $141.8M

Auburn (17): $139.3M

South Carolina (18): $136.9M

Arkansas (22): $129.6M

Mississippi (30): $113M

Missouri (35): $108.4M

Mississippi State (40): $98.8M

Operating surplus (or deficit)

Texas A&M: $43.7M

Georgia: $30.7M

Florida: $17.9M

Mississippi State: $13.4M

Auburn: $13.2M

LSU: $8.8M

Arkansas: $7.9M

Kentucky: $5.5M

South Carolina: $3.8M

Tennessee: $ 789,730

Missouri: ($1.8M)

Mississippi: ($4.6M)

Alabama*: ($21.2M)

* Alabama’s reported operating deficit for the 2019 fiscal year is the result of large, one-time accounting anomaly, according to the school. Because of changes in federal tax law, the university’s auditors advised the athletic department to change the year in which it records revenue from priority-seating rights payments; this meant $24.5 million in revenue was deferred to the 2020 fiscal year.

+ Vanderbilt, the SEC’s only private school, is not included in report. 

USA TODAY’s Steve Berkowitz and Blake Toppmeyer of the Knoxville News Sentinel contributed to this story.