A report from The Advocate’s Ross Dellenger over the weekend detailed revenues and expenses for 13 of the Southeastern Conference’s 14 teams, with LSU sitting firmly in the middle of the pack:
As you can see, LSU netted some $55 million in profit over the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with television rights and the SEC Network making up the bulk of the revenue. The program sits at sixth in the conference in total revenue, while the profit margin ranked third, behind just Tennessee and Texas A&M.
Dellenger’s story itself discusses the wide gulf between the league’s upper and lower tiers, but what also remains of interest to me is how static LSU’s football budget remains, despite having one of the more profitable programs. The program’s estimated budget of about $30 million has been relatively static for the last few years, based on researched legislative auditor reports. Now, that number is somewhat nebulous, as the private funding TAF provides comes from multiple different angles that aren’t necessarily referenced. However, the gulf between what Alabama, Auburn and Georgia are spending is quite evident. Even Florida nudges out LSU by a few million.
This was the type of business that Les Miles tended to stay out of, but a portion of Ed Orgeron’s pitch to Joe Alleva and Co. very much involved becoming a more active fundraiser to help grow that budget in the ways necessary to stay near the top. Orgeron’s strategy of courting former players is almost certainly tied to this idea as well.
As this sister report from Dellenger details, support staff funding continues to skyrocket in the conference — Georgia specifically dove head-first into the “Shadow Staff” business under Kirby Smart. Alabama maintains a relatively low cost by employing mostly former players or high school coaches at low cost, or ex-college coaches, who are usually still being paid by other employers as well, with Steve Sarkisian being the main example last season.
Austin Thomas obviously played a huge role as personnel director under Miles, and that role has grown under Orgeron, who has a much more personal relationship with Thomas. Likewise, Thomas’ staff will continue to grow as well, as will the roster of shadow staff members.
Of course, with Louisiana’s state budget situation still in the toilet, particularly with regards to funding for education, the amount of money athletics will continue to donate to the university’s general fund could also continue to increase. As the sport’s arms race continues, one has to wonder when the trickle-down effect becomes a problem.