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Examining The SEC’s Budgets Over A Six-Year Span

Let’s play bank examiner and use USA Today’s latest financial data report to see how SEC athletic budgets (meaning: expenditures) have changed over the years.

Below you’ll find the total expenses for each public SEC school — as a private school Vanderbilt doesn’t share its budget — from 2006 through 2011.  In the end, we tally the numbers to see who’s spent what on athletics over a six-year span.

Remember, Missouri and Texas A&M were Big 12 schools during this stretch.  So here are your total athletic expenses year-by-year for 13 of the SEC’s 14 schools:


   Rank    School    2011    2010    2009    2008    2007    2006    Total Expenses 06-11
   1    Florida    107,157,831    105,824,376    102,082,778    98,775,583    92,630,682    78,665,774    585,137,024
   2    Tennessee    97,580,406    111,670,619    105,972,740    100,507,146    94,445,270    70,565,159    580,741,340
   3    Alabama    105,068,152    98,961,214    90,868,971    123,370,004    77,106,548    60,636,961    556,011,850
   4    LSU    91,796,925    102,326,769    94,451,691    81,150,829    73,232,219    65,215,990    508,174,423
   5    Auburn    100,497,784    90,908,902    85,480,343    69,841,200    68,910,465    63,249,119    478,887,813
   6    Texas A&M    78,310,805    75,941,926    77,812,183    77,426,317    70,377,179    61,459,536    441,327,946
   7    Georgia    80,759,498    77,250,831    78,573,518    71,993,533    64,153,697    62,228,597    434,959,674
   8    Kentucky    82,840,006    79,002,986    68,628,681    71,079,982    61,075,726    57,551,345    420,178,726
   9    S. Carolina    80,525,711    78,295,030    75,597,812    64,516,437    57,167,414    53,098,347    409,200,751
   10    Arkansas    79,392,988    71,801,905    64,609,733    64,632,499    62,169,914    48,736,994    391,344,033
   11    Missouri    64,160,358    61,766,109    58,604,216    51,779,677    57,211,839    56,057,181    349,579,380
   12    Ole Miss    47,109,301    45,737,904    41,290,128    34,769,709    33,782,527    29,412,948    232,102,517
   13    Miss. State    51,588,743    36,265,186    36,703,582    30,432,972    27,542,758    25,796,264    208,329,505



* Combined, the SEC’s schools have spent $5,595,974,982  on athletics since 2006.  That’s billion with a B.  Somewhere an economics professor just fainted.

* It’s no surprise that the traditional “Big Six” football programs in the SEC — Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee — would have been the top six spenders if not for the addition of Texas A&M.  (Before sending angry emails about my reference to a “Big Six,” note that the SEC in 1992 put Auburn in the West Division and Vanderbilt in the East Division despite geography in an effort to put three powers in one division (Bama, Auburn, LSU) and three in the other (Florida, Georgia, Tennessee).

* It is surprising that Arkansas’ athletic outlay has been so low compared to its SEC rivals, but remember, numbers can be tweaked.  As any Hog fan can tell you — and will likely shout at you — the UA athletic department never goes into debt thanks to donors who are down with paying up front, in cash (in most cases).

* How long before someone in the Magnolia State reads this chart, sees that Ole Miss and Mississippi State have spent about $350,000,000 less on athletics over the last six years, and starts a push for those schools to leave the SEC for the Big 12?  (Kidding, of course.  The SEC’s even-Steven revenue share actually aids those schools.)


Now let’s take a look at the increase in athletic spending for each school from 2006 to 2011, just those two years.  And since we’re looking at those two years only, the percentage increase we’ll show you should be used as only a ballpark indicator of budget growth.  Mississippi State, for example, had been remarkably steady in its growth until making a big jump in 2011.  That doesn’t mean they will spend the same amount of cash in 2012.  You can see in the chart above that several SEC schools have seen spikes and declines over the past six years.

Still, here’s a look at the total dollar increase from 2006 to 2011 along with the percentage growth for each school:


   Rank    School    2006-2001 Expense Increase    % Growth
   1    Alabama    44,431,191    73.2%
   2    Auburn    37,248,665    58.8%
   3    Arkansas    30,655,994    62.9%
   4    Florida    28,492,057    36.2%
   5    S. Carolina    27,427,362    51.6%
   6    Tennessee    27,015,247    38.2%
   7    LSU    26,580,935    40.7%
   8    Miss. State    25,792,479    99.9%
   9    Kentucky    25,288,661    43.9%
   10    Georgia    18,530,901    29.7%
   11    Ole Miss    17,696,353    60.1%
   12    Texas A&M    16,851,269    27.4%
   13    Missouri    8,103,177    14.4%


As you can see, the percentages can be a little bit deceiving.  Mississippi State basically doubled it’s budget from 2006 to 2011.  But the Bulldogs grew from just — just? — $25 million in ’06 to $36 million in ’10.  In 2011 came the bounce to $51 million.

Similarly, big-spending schools like Florida and Tennessee didn’t show a big percentage growth, but overall they’ve been the league’s spendthrifts over the last six years.

After looking at all these numbers, it becomes more and more evident why the board of trustees at Missouri pushed their school toward the Southeastern Conference.



John, how do you account for the fuzzy math that some schools use in showing capital expenditures? If a given school has a capital campaign to add on to their stadium, do those dollars get shown as a part of their athletic expenses at the the time they pay for the improvements, or is that accounted for separately? If it is included, it can skew budgets drastically.


I give Missouri and its Board loads of credit for having the guts to make the move to the SEC. It was a bold and gutsy move - even considering the increased money we are expected to make in the SEC vs. Big 12. Just think of the risk the Board made in moving away from the Conference Missouri had been in forever, the rivalry with Kansas, the possibility of being beat up in a very very strong Conference and the money that will need to be raised to upgrade facilities and budgets to be competitive.


However, in my mind, this is the exact challenge and change the school needs at this point. It will make Missouri better and quite possibly move us to the upper tier like Arkansas.




ok, I'll bite, why did the Missouri spending push them toward the SEC.  Because the official line from the President and board was that they would pay a huge fee to the big 12 and be committed to spending a lot more.



 Move us to the upper tier like Arkansas? Arkansas isn't upper tier in the SEC. They had one good year and still finished about 4th in the conference. Missouri has put together a master plan for the program, and SEC membership is only a part of it. As a Missouri alum, I would be disappointed if all we wanted to do was be an also-ran. Instead, I think you will see coordinated growth in fundraising, facilities and sports programs at Missouri, starting now and continuing for several years. If it was just to get a few million more a year in revenue, Missouri joining the SEC makes a lot less sense for those of us who care about the program. Missouri looks at the SEC as a more fair, stable playing field where they have the opportunity to be excellent.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



Well, we've got a few posters from each school who just come to our site each day just to pick fights.  They think every post is somehow negative about their school. Your two posts today make you the first such fan from Missouri to qualify.  Congratulations.


I think most folks would look at Missouri's athletic budget, the Tigers net loss in 2011, and their slow growth over six years and deduce that making more money in the spread-the-wealth, stable SEC would be a good thing.




Well, I would have to disagree. Arkansas was 11-2 last year (only losses were to Alabama and LSU). I find it quite hard to believe that in 2011 anyone would really say Arkansas was 4th in the SEC. In 2010, Arkansas was 10-3. That is what I meant by upper tier and, to be honest, I would be quite thrilled if Missouri got to that level in the SEC. It is much much better than also-ran.


Careful on high expectations right away -- its a good way to be disappointed even if Mizzou does well.


 @John at MrSEC one more thing, I understand your point better now that you explain that you view the conference change as related to net proceeds.  I'm sure anyone would agree that the opposite would be less logical and it's a part of a the big equation that FSU is discussing just like Missouri did.


 @John at MrSEC I'm not a Missouri alum.  I post a lot of comments.  I'm not picking a fight and you know it.  Just find out what really happened and quit trying to blame someone else for what could be a good story if you just follow up a little more



You sound like an Arkansas fan, not a Missouri fan. You finished 3rd in your own division, lost to the two teams ahead of you (and were dominated) and didn't play Georgia, who won the East. Sorry, that is not top tier. Georgia won their division. As I said 4th best. In the SEC, not too shabby. Admittedly, you had a very good year, but one year does not make a great program. It is continuity. Certainly Arkansas has been on the rise, and you may even be better this year. Top tier teams challenge to win the conference every year. Arkansas isn't quite there yet, but one day they may be. And that is no slam. That is Missouri's task as well.


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