UofL Athletics among most expensive, profitable in nation

Published: Dec. 6, 2012 at 10:50 PM EST|Updated: May. 23, 2013 at 11:02 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Charlie Strong's decision to stay at UofL puts him in line to be one of the highest paid coaches in the country. His new contract is expected to be worth around $4 million a year or more. So how can UofL afford it?

Big time college athletics is big business. College athletics data gathered by the U.S. Department of Education revealed UofL's Athletic Department budget is almost twice as much as the Louisville Fire Department's.

In 2011-2012, the University of Louisville spent $84,483,791 on its sports programs, according to Equity in Athletics Data Analysis. That's more than any other school in the ACC and one of the main reasons UofL was invited to join the league.

But the athletics department isn't just spending money, it's making money too. UofL Sports earned $3,356,713 last year and was more profitable than schools like the University of Kentucky and Florida State.

"That's the reason we've been able to build up Cardinal Park, the expansion at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and other projects that we've done," said UofL Associate Athletic Director Kevin Miller.

Miller credits the fans and the millions they pay for suites and season tickets. He thinks profits could be headed even higher -- even after Coach Strong's hefty raise – because of an increase in revenue UofL is expecting to receive from the ACC's television contract.

"I think the more that we can use the athletic program to not only represent the university in a first class manner but also be ambassadors as we go out," Miller said. "I think we've seen a positive return on that."

That's been especially true for UofL basketball. The school will enter the ACC as the conference's top grossing basketball program. It made $24,624,632 in the 2012-2013 season. That's $10 million more than the famed University of North Carolina, which grossed $14,518,957.

But UofL is trailing on the football field. It would rank just 10th in the ACC in football money made last season with $4,987,416 in profits. By comparison, the University of Tennessee's football program pulled in $32,804,100.

It's a difference the Vols surely mentioned in their recruitment of Charlie Strong. But shortly after Strong announced he was staying at UofL, Athletic Director Tom Jurich pledged to spare no expense to make UofL football competitive with the nation's top programs.

"I have unbelievable respect for the Southeastern Conference," Jurich said. "But they're humans just like we are. They're not going to be pouring any more money into their programs than I am pouring into this one."

What impact all this has on a school's academic budget is complex. UofL gives $2,100,000 every year to support sports teams that aren't big money makers and for academic support for scholar athletes. But last year, the athletics department gave $2,000,000 back to the school to help it out of its financial crisis.

University of Kentucky spokesperson Jay Blanton said UK is one of only 20 universities nationally that are self-supporting and don't get any money from the school's general fund.

"In addition, UK Athletics returns millions of dollars each year to the campus for purely academic -- not athletics -- purposes," Blanton wrote in an email. "UK athletics, this year for example, is funding $3 million of our most prestigious academic scholarships, the Singletary."

Blanton said that contribution is in addition to $500,000 annually for UK's academic advertising and radio and TV spots.

Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.