LSU revenue sharing deal no 'bail out' by athletics, analyst says

LSU revenue sharing deal no 'bail out' by athletics, analyst says

A new revenue sharing pact between the LSU Athletics Department and the university at large is in line with recommendations made by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a leading national nonprofit that presses for intercollegiate athletics programs to operate within the educational mission of their colleges and universities.

The deal, approved Friday by the LSU Board of Supervisors, will send at least $36 million of athletics department revenue to academic endeavors over the next five years. Knight Commission Executive Director Amy Perko says the deal appears to be among the first of its kind in college sports—at least in its structure—but notes the LSU Athletics Department is also among fewer than two dozen collegiate sports programs in the country that is in any position to facilitate such a deal.

"There are only about 22 athletics departments that consistently generate positive net revenues," she says. "There are some programs in the high-profile conferences that have, in some cases, given back to their universities, but I don't know that I've seen anything as systematic as LSU's recent announcement."

LSU officials say they're not aware of any other similar revenue sharing agreement at colleges or universities across the country, and maintain it will ensure LSU at large will share in the success of the university's sports teams.

Knight Commission research shows spending on athletics programs at the country's colleges and universities is increasing at a pace twice that of spending on academics, Perko says. In the football-crazed SEC, the figure is even more startling.

"In the SEC, university spending per student-athlete is 12 times what is spent on each student that is there solely for academics," Perko says.

With those figures in mind, Perko says she doesn't think the new LSU agreement should be viewed as a bailout of academics by the athletics department.

"I don't see it as a bail out," Perko says. "I see arrangements like this as a signal that the athletics department is working to be a fully integral part of the university's broader institutional mission—and that the athletics department really sees itself as a part of the university, instead of apart from it."

In recent years, the NCAA has adopted several recommendations made by the Knight Commission, including one requiring teams to meet an academic threshold of 50% student-athlete graduation to participate in any NCAA-sponsored championship or football bowl game. The commission also recommended a revenue sharing plan for teams that will participate in the expanded NCAA college football playoff system when it kicks off in 2014.

To access reports from the Knight Commission on a wide range of issues relating to athletic versus academic spending at the nation's colleges and universities, visit its website here.

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