In a shocking development that no one who follows college sports could ever have foreseen, it turns out some college athletic departments have a whole lot more money than others.
We kid, of course, but that doesn’t mean differences in revenues and expenditures between top schools and mid-majors isn’t somewhat striking. According to a report from Bloomberg, major-conference athletic departments spend about three times as much on sports as other FBS teams do.
But what’s most shocking about Bloomberg’s evaluation of inequality in college sports isn’t the difference between Alabama and, say, Bowling Green, its the difference between Alabama and its national-title opponent Clemson.
Per Bloomberg, Alabama’s football budget is $51 million a year. Clemson’s football budget? Less than half as large, at $24 million a year. Additionally, Alabama’s $97 million a year in football revenues is more than the entire Clemson athletics budget.
The financial chasm that separates Clemson from Alabama—the biggest college football dynasty since 40s-era Notre Dame—is a potent illustration of the disparity across college football. Alabama and about a dozen others are college football’s ultimate “haves,” supported by a system that allows the richest schools to make their own rules.
These schools are insulated from the pressures football is starting to place on many schools around the country, where the sport requires subsidies from the other side of campus to make up for falling attendance and rising costs. “They’re almost completely immune,” said Russell Wright, the managing director of Collegiate Consulting in Atlanta, which has studied the finances of college athletic departments at every level.
It makes sense that Alabama, a football dynasty in a football-mad state, would be reaping huge revenues, but it’s kind of jarring that there’s such a huge difference between Bama and Clemson, another huge public school in the South with a football tradition and lots of recent success. The Tide is certainly rolling.
Alabama and Clemson play for the national title tonight, so we’ll see whether money really makes all the difference.