Pay for play: Florida

Florida's athletic department isn't hurting for money. (One caveat: These numbers came from the U.S. Department of Education and are for the 2009-10 seasons. If schools receive Title IV funding, federal statute requires them to report the financials for their athletic department, and this has what should be included in each category, such as broadcast revenues, concessions and advertising. The U.S. Department of Education also has the most complete school data because it is the only entity that has both public and private institutional information.)

In fact, Florida is doing so well that according to the 2011-12 budget, the University Athletic Association is expected to return $6 million to the university for the second straight year. The UAA has actually helped the university as it faced major financial cuts. Since 1990, the UAA has given back more than $60 million to the university.

Obviously, the breadwinner of Florida’s athletic family is the football program. It ranked second only behind Georgia ($52,529,885) for football profit ($44,258,193) in the SEC. That profit covered all of the school’s other sports and then some. According to the 2011-12 budget, revenue increased by a little more than $2.2 million from the 2010-11 budget, primarily because of a $2.3 million increase in football game revenue due to an increase in season- and single-game ticket prices.

The SEC revenue from bowl games, television contracts and championships is projected to be $17 million in 2011-12 as well for Florida.

So although Florida’s athletic department is cruising along -- despite the tough financial times in the real world -- it’s hard to say whether Florida could get away with paying its student-athletes. There are more than 500 athletes at Florida, and if the school was going to start compensating athletes, it would have to cover every single one -- both revenue and non-revenue sports athletes.

Florida’s revenues have increased, but so have expenses. The 2011-12 budget increased by $3.2 million from last year’s, including $1.5 million from men’s and women’s scholarships because of tuition and fees administered by the university, as well as increases in room and board costs.

However, it is important to note that athletes’ scholarship money appears to be more than $4,000 less than the school’s cost of attendance. These numbers are estimates from the university rather than exact figures. Cost of living and everyday expenses are certainly different for every athlete.

But for Florida to start adding to athletes’ wallets, the UAA would have to ask for more from its boosters (the UAA projects that it will receive $36 million from Gator Boosters this year) and get more from its endowment, which currently funds athletic scholarships. The UAA might also have to go into debt to cover the new expenses or cut facility spending money.

There also could be a scenario where students outside of athletics might have to help fund the UAA through increased student fees.

With some money movement, Florida could eventually support paying its athletes, but Florida is just one of few exceptions. There would have to be sacrifices, and if Florida would have this much work to do, smaller schools with smaller budgets and much less revenue would have little to no chance of even thinking of paying athletes.