Women's basketball expenses/revenues for potential Pac-10/Big 12 merged superconference

Oklahoman staff writer Brandon Chatman published an article today with the expenses and revenues for all the potential Pac-10/Big 12 superconference teams.

Texas is the top revenue earner |

Expenses and revenues for potential Pac-10/Big 12 merged superconference |

Included in those numbers is a breakdown in the women's basketball numbers. However, there were a few things I noticed that were worth noting.

  1. He mentioned revenues and expenses, but not profits. Since critics sometimes bring up profit margins in Title IX conversations, I wanted to know that.
  2. Oklahoma State University's expense figure of $11,052,293 seemed outlandish. In fact, it was -- using the source Chatman cited in the article (U.S. Department of Education) I found the correct figure, which was of course a fraction of the published figure.
  3. Following the thinking about Title IX debates, I wondered what percentage of the schools' total expenses the women's basketball programs were.
  4. Along those lines, I wanted to know the difference in profit margin between men's and women's basketball programs, primarily to determine how the (typically) biggest sports during basketball season compare. As it turns out, football would not be the only big money maker in this conference. So given that Title IX exists, how able is an institution able to absorb those costs?

Here's an extended look at Chatman's numbers, taking the above into consideration (with the help of Excel and the beauty of the copying and pasting):

Women's basketball finances (sorted by profits)

School Expenses Revenues Profit Percent total expenses
Texas Tech $2,734,893 $1,746,714 -$988,179 5.89%
Washington State $1,721,628 $581,418 -$1,140,210 4.50%
Arizona $1,644,057 $339,568 -$1,304,489 3.17%
Stanford $2,651,378 $1,262,592 -$1,388,786 3.55%
Washington $2,311,555 $768,975 -$1,542,580 3.82%
UCLA $1,995,589 $337,034 -$1,658,555 3.02%
Oregon State $1,886,998 $217,731 -$1,669,267 3.76%
Oklahoma State $2,118,334 $427,816 -$1,690,518 2.95%
USC $1,932,338 $224,551 -$1,707,787 2.41%
Arizona State $2,326,447 $320,282 -$2,006,165 4.36%
Oregon $2,448,130 $305,951 -$2,142,179 4.06%
California $3,822,216 $1,568,221 -$2,253,995 5.21%
Colorado $2,710,495 $389,436 -$2,321,059 5.44%
Texas $4,557,124 $1,918,013 -$2,639,111 3.29%
Oklahoma $4,126,551 $1,448,696 -$2,677,855 5.06%


A few observations:

  • You will notice this is not a true Pac 16 - Chatman left Texas A&M out, likely because of the rumor that they might move to the SEC. Based on rumors, Kansas would be a candidate if A&M goes elsewhere.
  • Every women's basketball program is losing money, at least by these numbers. However, it is good that Oklahoma State is not actually losing 11 million dollars.
  • Despite losses, it's also worth noting that no women's basketball program accounts for more than 6% of the athletic department's overall expenses. 
  • At least last year, expenses and revenues had little to do with being successful on the court -- Washington State doesn't make a lot, but they've managed to keep expenses down as well which makes them the second least hurtful women's basketball program, two spots ahead of Stanford.

So as stated above, what do these numbers mean for athletic departments during basketball season?

Men's basketball finances (sorted by overall "net basketball profit")

School Expenses Revenues Profit Percent total expenses Net Basketball profit
Arizona $6,132,352 $17,524,360 $11,392,008 11.83% $10,251,798
Texas $7,891,661 $14,770,278 $6,878,617 5.69% $5,336,037
Oklahoma State $5,166,055 $11,052,293 $5,886,238 7.19% $4,178,451
UCLA $6,996,960 $11,775,932 $4,778,972 10.57% $3,120,417
Washington $4,778,134 $9,269,217 $4,491,083 7.88% $3,502,904
Texas Tech $3,831,828 $6,479,893 $2,648,065 8.24% $8,954
Stanford $4,225,448 $6,117,561 $1,892,113 5.65% $503,327
Arizona State $4,349,834 $6,668,542 $2,318,708 8.16% $649,441
Oregon State $3,329,671 $4,285,443 $955,772 6.63% -$1,186,407
Washington State $3,483,659 $3,724,556 $240,897 9.09% -$1,449,621
California $4,757,998 $5,793,217 $1,035,219 6.48% -$1,642,636
Oklahoma $5,409,808 $6,753,149 $1,343,341 6.63% -$977,718
Colorado $3,951,423 $3,993,889 $42,466 7.92% -$2,211,529
Oregon $4,502,176 $4,277,258 -$224,918 7.46% -$2,231,083
USC $4,719,236 $3,830,563 -$888,673 5.88% -$2,193,162


A few more observations:

  • In contrast to women's basketball programs, all but two men's basketball programs (both in the current Pac-10) make money.
  • Again, one might argue that the profit margin does not necessarily depend on success.
  • No school spends more on women's basketball than men's basketball.
  • Five programs could argue that they lose money during basketball season because of women's basketball -- they would in fact be in the black without it. Conversely, one could also argue that all five of those programs are earning below average revenues on men's basketball ($7,754,410). As such earning above average on men's basketball would "remedy" the problem in the sense that they would meet Title IX requirements while still making money in basketball season  (Oklahoma would have the narrowest profit margin, but the $1,001,261 additional dollars they'd make if they were making average revenue would offset the current negative "net basketball profit margin"). 

General thoughts:

  • Opponents of Title IX may look at this and say that women's basketball -- arguably the biggest women's sport -- is costing institutions and is therefore an institutional burden. I might respond that not one of those on this list accounts for more than 6% of a department's overall expenses -- more than other sports certainly, but the majority of schools are able to absorb the cost (either with men's basketball or football, for the most part). By the same logic, we could argue that both Oregon and USC men's basketball should also be cut because they're losing money. I would suggest that Title IX critics don't like that idea.
  • But ultimately, I would also suggest that the value of these women's sports goes beyond dollars anyway -- it not only gives women the opportunity to play sports and compete at the highest levels, but also the more important privilege (in our current U.S. society) to leverage their athleticism to pay for their education. Given that female athletes graduate at higher rates than male athletes, the argument could certainly be made that women's athletics is worthwhile investment.
  • Lastly, I've said this before: if we were to go around university campuses and cut every single entity that wasn't making money, we'd also cut history departments because 1) they usually don't have high enrollments, which means less tuition dollars and 2) they don't bring in the big research dollars that other departments do. Pick your favorite cliche about the harms of not knowing history to assess the value of those departments. Sometimes there is greater value to the opportunities a university provides than profit margins, whether sports or academics. In the spirit of John Wooden, I believe their mission is to educate young men and women and prepare them for them for the world. They deserve equitable opportunities to achieve that goal. 

I fully recognize that the financial decisions athletic departments make are not as simple as a spreadsheet copy and paste operation. However, the problem is that many of the arguments made against (and for) Title IX are indeed this simplistic, which is why I found a look at the numbers interesting since they're available.

What do other people notice about these numbers? What else might be missing from this picture? How do these numbers -- for these schools or nationwide -- influence your thinking about Title IX?

Related links:

Opinions vary on OU in Pac-10 | Tulsa World

Big 12 women's basketball coaches critical of possible changes - Swish Appeal