Campus Corner

Latest round of conference income for Big 12, SEC schools rivals ticket sales

Federal tax returns for the Big 12 and SEC show why it pays to belong to a major conference, and provides insight into why power conference schools want their own voting structure.

Total revenue from television contracts, bowl games, NCAA tournaments and ticket sales to league championships are the primary sources for the conferences. Big 12 revenue totaled $214.8 million in 2012-13; the SEC totaled $314.5 million.

The returns for the 2013 financial year, which spans July 1 to June 30, are the first with new conference members — Missouri and Texas A&M in the 14-team SEC, and TCU and West Virginia in the 10-team Big 12.

Missouri reported $21.1 million in conference revenue in 2012-13, almost doubling its income from the final years in the Big 12. The Tigers’ biggest windfall from their Big 12 era came in 2011, when they received $12.8 million.

TCU received $9.8 million and West Virginia $8.8 million from the Big 12 for 2012-13. The schools are being phased into the Big 12’s distribution process. They’re expected to receive a 67 percent share in 2013-14, 80 percent in 2014-15 and full shares by 2015-16.

Additional income is held from West Virginia because the Big 12 helped the school pay its exit fee from the Big East.

Income from conferences is becoming a greater percentage of schools’ athletic budgets. Ticket sales, especially from football season passes, has historically been the main driver of college athletic income, but no longer.

At Kansas, conference revenue in 2012-13 was greater than ticket sales to football and men’s basketball for the first time. It was almost even at Missouri and K-State.

As recently as 2010, ticket revenue at Missouri and Kansas nearly doubled conference income.

The major football-playing conferences — Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern — are funded by multibillion television contracts. And next year, the leagues will begin receiving the lion’s share of the College Football Playoff income. ESPN paid $7.3 billion for the rights to the title and other major bowl games for 12 years.

The Big 12 breakdown from the 2012-13 tax return obtained by The Star: $132.3 million from TV revenue, $40.8 million from bowl games, $35.4 million from NCAA Tournament revenue, and $6.2 million from ticket sales.

Of that $214.8 million in revenue, $185.6 million went back to the schools. The remainder is used for operating the office, salaries, benefits, attorney’s fees and other expenses.

For the last two years, the major colleges have sought ways to share some of the income with the athletes in the form of a monthly stipend or full cost of attendance. But such measures haven’t been approved by the full Division I membership, which numbers about 350 — and most without the access to the income of the major powers.

“By the time we take a legislative proposal through the system, it doesn’t look like the Thoroughbred race horse we thought we were inventing, and instead turns out looking like a three-legged camel that doesn’t serve anybody’s interest or needs,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.

Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch said Division I athletic budgets ranged from $5 million to $150 million, although former Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds put the Longhorns’ budget at $170 million during a speaking engagement last week.

The big money in college sports is also the background music for the various lawsuits and Northwestern football labor movement that target the NCAA and schools for exploiting athletes. The message to the schools is clear: Fix it or the courts will.

The football powers are in the process of making that happen. They can afford it.