Football Saved 2019-20 FBS Budgets

    • Football was such a cash cow in 2019 that it kept department finances afloat despite three months of a pandemic-induced shutdown.
    • The extent of the losses at FBS programs will not appear until next year.

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The NCAA lost more than $600 million in revenue during the 2019-20 fiscal year, financial statements showed. 

But for individual FBS athletic departments, football was such a cash cow in 2019 that it kept department finances afloat despite three months of a pandemic-induced shutdown.

The extent of the losses at FBS programs will not appear until next year, when financial statements reflect the impact of a truncated 2020 football season. 

A Few Examples

Not only did some schools avoid significant losses, but some even profited.

Ohio State boasted “record” revenue in 2019-20, raking in $223.9 million in total revenue — more than $20 million more than the previous year, its financial statements show. That would top revenue for every single Division I public program in 2018-19, according to USA TODAY.

The University of Texas, Austin made about $200.8 million in 2019-20, per the American-Statesman, and notched $22.1 million in profit despite making about $23 million less revenue than the previous fiscal year. Still, the athletic department laid off staff and cut costs before the 2020 football season.

Smaller programs came out with minimal damage as well. For example, Colorado State, which said it suffered more than $1 million in pandemic losses, still earned $56 million — about the same revenue as in 2018-19, according to financial statements.  

The Takeaways

As with football, revenue from men’s basketball teams was mostly unaffected, as the regular season proceeded normally until conference tournaments shut down in mid-March last year.

It’s the 2020 football season — and the 2020-21 men’s basketball regular season —  which will ultimately cause pandemic-related revenue losses. 

Even next year, losses may not be as dire as once predicted for FBS programs, given that every conference played at least a truncated football season. Two of the three teams that opted out told FOS canceling their seasons wouldn’t sink their budgets.

And if the NCAA can pull off its March Madness bubble, some of the individual distributions that were slashed last year may be recouped.