University support of athletics exceeds $14 million


Matt Stahl

Institutional financial support for WKU athletics remained very high for the 2018 fiscal year, according to a financial report submitted to the NCAA.

The report, which was obtained by the Herald along with the 2017 edition, shows that athletics received $14,772,042 in direct institutional support from the university, up from $13,395,715 in the 2017 fiscal year.

The year-over-year increase comes to $1,376,327.

WKU recorded $19,957,066 in athletic revenues in 2008, according to USA Today. That has increased to $30,595,026 over the last decade, an increase of 53.3%. However, the vast majority of that increase came directly from school funds.

According to USA Today’s database, the school funds portion of revenues jumped from $7,905,203 in 2008 to $16,607,859 in 2017. Institutional support accounted for 39.61% of athletic funding in 2008. That increased to 54.56% in 2017.

Other schools in Conference USA subsidize athletics at similar levels to WKU. Middle Tennessee was listed by USA Today as having $34,040,334 in athletic revenue for the 2017 fiscal year, a number that grew to $35,353,956 in 2018, according to its revenues and expenses report.

In 2008, MTSU brought in $9,356,796 in athletic revenue, a figure that has increased by 79% over the last 10 years. However, the Blue Raiders’ program is still heavily funded by the school itself, with school funds accounting for $15,677,328, or 46.06%, in 2017.

Elsewhere in C-USA, Old Dominion reported having one of the highest revenues in the conference with $46,203,813 in athletic revenue in 2017, according to the USA Today database. ODU used no school funds for athletics that year, although student fees accounted for $28,681,512, or 62.08%, of revenue.

Student fees in the state of Virginia, where ODU is located, had grown so high that in 2014 a law was passed limiting the percentage of funding athletic departments could bring in via student fees.

In contrast, WKU brought in $4,015,048 in student fees in 2017, and MTSU collected $6,699,470.

Elsewhere in the state, some programs are not doing nearly as well as the Hilltoppers. Murray State, which competes in the Ohio Valley Conference, brought in $16,827,106 in revenues in 2018. That’s an increase from $15,629,362 in 2017, according to MSU’s revenues and expenses reports for those years. However, MSU also reported expenses of $16,105,420 in 2018 and $16,006,494 in 2017. That resulted in losses of $721,686 and 377,132, respectively.

The amount of money WKU athletics collected from ticket sales jumped to $2,426,977 in 2018 compared to $2,300,588 in 2017. That’s in part due to the success of the men’s basketball team, which recently reorganized the student section in Diddle Arena in order to free up more space for premium tickets and student seating.

Another notable category on the documents shows athletics received no money from television rights in 2017 or 2018, a result of C-USA’s lack of favorable TV contracts. In 2018, MTSU made $219,907 in media rights. The top school in the nation in media rights revenues was the University of Texas, which brought in $86,180,263 in rights and licensing revenues, according to USA Today.

Blake Sandlin of The Murray State News contributed to this story.

Sports Editor Matt Stahl can be reached at 270-745-6291 and matt[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @mattstahl97.