Big Ten schools among few making profit

One key aspect of the summer expansion explosion that most people overlooked is the difficulty of entire athletic departments -- not just the football or men's basketball programs -- to remain financially stable.

Multiple sources around college athletics have told me that there's a very real danger of schools cutting sports programs if new revenue streams aren't discovered. Most sports are expensive to run and generate little or no money for the athletic program.

A new NCAA report on the financial state of top athletic programs confirms the sobering reality. According to researchers, only 14 of the 120 athletic departments with an FBS program made money from athletics during the 2009 fiscal year. This is down from 25 programs the previous fiscal year.

Sixty-eight schools made profits from their football programs, but increasing costs to sustain all sports resulted in a net loss.

The median amount paid by the 120 FBS schools to support campus athletics grew in one year from about $8 million to more than $10 million. ...

NCAA interim president Jim Isch, who spent 11 years as the association's chief financial officer, called the latest numbers less a reflection of “runaway spending” in college athletics than a reality of the country's larger economic crisis.

And people wonder why the Big Ten wants a football championship game: $$$.

The good news for the Big Ten is at least three of its programs are among the 14 turning profits. Although the NCAA doesn't release revenue and expenses totals for its schools, lead researcher Dan Fulks confirmed that Ohio State is among the schools making money. It's notable because Ohio State has 36 varsity sports, the most in the Big Ten.

Purdue and Indiana also made profits. According to The Indianapolis Star, Purdue reported a profit of around $230,000, while Indiana made $145,000.

We're seeing more and more money moves in college sports -- from expansion to neutral-site "home" games like Penn State at Indiana this fall. It's fine to criticize these endeavors, but remember the alternative likely would be cutting varsity programs.