Only 20 colleges and universities "have athletic departments with revenue exceeding expenses."

Jim Moran on Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 in a Facebook post

Jim Moran says only 20 colleges make a profit from sports

At the end of his 24-year congressional career, Rep. Jim Moran Jr. is returning to his athletic roots.

Moran, D-8th, is the son and namesake of Jim Moran Sr., who played professional football with the Boston Redskins in the mid 1930s. The congressman, himself, played football at the College of the Holy Cross in the mid 1960s.

Moran, who retires Jan. 3, introduced legislation this fall that would create a commission to look into the policies of the NCAA after myriad college sports scandals. The resolution calls for the panel to make recommendations to improve "the interaction of athletics and academics" on campuses. That includes examining the graduation rates of student athletes, rules restricting athletes’ abilities to earn money, and the wherewithal of universities to finance broad athletic programs.

"We have a system now where in 40 states, the highest-paid public employee is the state university’s head football or basketball coach, and yet only 20 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision have athletic departments with revenue exceeding expenses," Moran said in a Facebook post.

We rated Moran’s statement about coaches’ pay as Mostly True. Now, we’ll look at his claim that only 20 athletic departments at  the nation’s largest universities are making a profit.

Let’s start with a definition of the Football Bowl Subdivision -- the term Moran used to qualify his statement.

There are 1,083 colleges and universities competing in sports that fall under the NCAA’s governance. They are grouped into three divisions, that are defined by athletic scholarship rules and the amount of money the schools spend on sports. For example, Division I schools -- which are typically large -- can offer many full athletic scholarships, Division II schools can offer partial athletic scholarships and Division III schools are not allowed to offer sports  scholarships.

There are 346 Division I schools. Of them, 123 are classified as members of the Football Bowl Subdivision, the top tier of sports competition. These are colleges and universities that are eligible to compete in bowl games and have average attendance of at least 15,000 at their home games. So Moran is generally talking about the athletic department finances at large universities that field football teams.

Moran’s spokesman, Thomas Scanlon, said the congressman’s claim was based on an NCAA study on Division I athletic department budgets that was released in April. The report says, "A total of 20 athletics programs in the FBS reported positive net revenues for the 2013 fiscal year." The study deals in broad statistics and does not identify schools that are in the black or the red.

Only two sports were profitable at FBS schools, according to the report. Football programs netted a median profit of slightly more than $3 million and men’s basketball netted a median $340,000. But the profits at most schools quickly vanished after paying for a long list of other intercollegiate teams, all of which lose money. The median loss among of athletic departments was $11.6 million.

Here are some other findings from the NCAA report:

  • Median revenues generated by athletic departments increased by 3.2 percent from 2012 to 2013, while expenses went up 10.6 percent;
  • Of the 20 schools that made money, the median profit  was $8.4 million;
  • Of the 103 schools that lost money, the median deficit was $14.9 million;
  • The highest total revenues generated by an athletic department was $169.7 million;
  • The highest total expenses by an athletic department was $146.8 million.

According to the report, all athletic departments outside of the FBS operate in the red. In other words, only 20 of the 1,083 college sports programs in the nation are profitable.

Our ruling

Moran said only 20 FBS schools generate more money from athletics than they spend. We rate his statement True.