MSU, Ole Miss athletics both made money in 2011

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi State and Ole Miss don’t have big athletic budgets relative to the rest of the Southeastern Conference schools, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t making money.
A database assembled by USA Today, and published on May 14, listed the revenue and expense numbers, along with other figures, of 227 Division I athletic departments. Both MSU and Ole Miss were shown to be in the black in 2011.
According to the database, MSU brought in $58,981,769 of revenue against $51,588,743 in expenses. That’s a difference of $7,393,026, and athletics director Scott Stricklin said it’s being put to good use.
He said about $1 million is going toward resurfacing at Davis Wade Stadium, and money is also being used to help with various facility renovations as well as the “soft cost” of moving into the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex that’s being constructed.
“We’ve got a long list of projects we’re looking forward to providing our student-athletes and coaches,” Stricklin said, “and we’ll use some of that money for some of that.”
Ole Miss brought in $49,180,892 in revenue in 2011 while spending $47,109,301, for a difference of $2,071,591. Smaller than MSU’s take, but any extra money comes in handy. A big challenge is finding new revenue streams to keep up with ever-increasing expenses.
For Ole Miss, its contract with Nike is increasing.
“Even though that’s not cash in pocket, that’s money that we do not have to spend on apparel,” said John Hartwell, associate AD for finance. “That’s uniforms, practice gear, socks, jocks, the whole nine yards. We have to find cash coming in but also sponsorship deals that eliminate having to spend money in certain areas.”
Ole Miss has nearly doubled rights and licensing fees since 2008 and brought in close to $23.5 million last year. MSU has more than doubled its intake there since 2008, and it got a $7 million-plus bump from 2010 to 2011, when it made $25,774,171 off rights and licensing.
Private is public
Those familiar with MSU’s past finances might raise an eyebrow at the reported numbers, which are significantly higher than past reported figures – in fact, more than $20 million more than last year’s figures. That’s because State has decided to also report private giving, and in 2011 that number was more than $16.3 million.
MSU’s 2011-12 athletic budget is $40.1 million, but Stricklin said last year that private funding made it closer to $55 million. The school’s fiscal calendar ends June 30, but the private donations are calculated on a normal calendar year, so there’s a bit of incongruity with the totals.
But reporting private giving is important to Stricklin.
“It’s hard to make it an apples-to-apples comparison, but from our standpoint I think it’s important that we try to present as full of a picture of our financial situation as we can,” he said. “Just because we ask our fans to buy tickets, to support the Bulldog Club, and I think it’s important to know that we’re being good stewards with the resources.”
Both schools receive subsidy money, which comes in the form of student fees, direct and indirect institutional support and state dollars. At 8.2 percent, MSU has the SEC’s highest subsidy rate, with Ole Miss second at 7.4 percent.
On a national level, though, that’s not very high at all. It can be misleading, too, as a lot of athletic revenue goes back to the university as a whole. As Stricklin pointed out, MSU’s athletic department receives less than half of the licensing money, “and I think you could make an argument that we generate the majority of that.”
However schools report their finances, the bottom line is the bottom line. Ole Miss and MSU have two of the smallest budgets in the league, but they try not to let that limit them.
“We have the resources to compete; we’ve got to continue to grow our resources to allow our coaches to compete more consistently,” Stricklin said. “But we’re never going to allow ourselves to be defined by a budget number.”
The Bulldogs and Rebels are arch-rivals, but this is an area they can agree on.
“Our challenge in that is that we have to be smart in how we conduct business,” said Hartwell, “but at the end of the day, our focus has to be to provide all the necessary resources for our student-athletes and coaches to be successful, to give them the opportunity to win on a consistent basis.”