While marching ever higher in its regular annual operating revenue, the University of Texas athletics department accomplished an unlikely feat during its 2016 fiscal year.
It spent nearly $2 million less than it did the year before.
The achievement is relative, given that it still spent more than $171 million on its 20-team program – an amount that likely will stand as the second-largest single-year operating expense total for a public-school athletics program.
However, it’s the first time Texas has lowered its annual operating expenses during the 12 years for which USA TODAY Sports has compiled these data for all NCAA Division I public schools. And it occurred during a year in which schools could start awarding athletic scholarships based on the total cost of attending school and many schools also continued ramping up spending on food under an NCAA rules change in 2014 that allowed schools provide scholarship and non-scholarship athletes with unlimited meals and snacks.
Texas had just under $188 million in operating revenue for fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2016. That represents a nearly $4.5 million increase – about 2.5% – over its total for fiscal 2015. That likely will be highest-single year total not connected to an anomalous gift or facility-related fundraising campaign.
Texas’ athletics department is among the few nationally that gets no revenue from student fees, or institutional or state sources. The department transferred $10.1 million of its operating surplus to the university in 2016, up from $9.8 million in 2015.
The new figures for Texas come from a financial statement that its athletics department compiled and included in its annual NCAA-mandated audit of its accounting procedures. The university provided USA TODAY Sports with a copy of the audit report in response to an open-records request made in conjunction with Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’ Sports Capital Journalism Program.
This document is different from the annual financial report schools must file with the NCAA, but the operating revenue and expense figures in Texas’ audit report for fiscal 2015 exactly matched those in its NCAA financial report for that year.
Texas increased its spending during 2016 in a number of areas, including a $1.1 million increase for scholarships – about 10.5% over the 2015 level. It also spent nearly $3.5 million on severance in 2016 after spending just under $1 million on that during the prior year.
But Texas decreased its spending categorized as “other operating expenses” from $13.9 million to $9.2 million. And its spending on compensation for administrators and support staff – which is separate from spending on coaches -- dropped from $37.5 million to $34.4 million.
However, even that lower compensation figure speaks to the huge gap between Texas and other Division I public schools. For fiscal 2015, nearly 70% of 231 Division I public schools reported spending less on their entire athletics program than Texas spent on its administrators and staff in 2016.
The revenue side of Texas’ program provides another staggering comparison point. For fiscal 2016, Texas attributed $127.9 million of its operating revenue to football. That amount reflects Texas crediting portions of all of its significant revenue streams to football while some schools do not report certain revenue streams on a sport-by-basis, instead choosing to report them as being not specific to any one team.
That said, it means Texas had more operating revenue from football in 2016 than all but seven other Division I public schools reported as having had from their entire athletics program in 2015.