Rich Louisville going to get richer in ACC

Joining the ACC not only means the University of Louisville will be in a more stable conference, it also means the Cardinals are poised to become one of the most profitable athletic departments in the country.

Louisville’s athletic department saw net profits in 2010-11 that ranked behind only 20 other public FBS schools, according to NCAA financial disclosures. With $5.9 million in net profit, the Cardinals were well above the average of $3 million for public schools and behind only one ACC member, the University of Virginia.

Much of Louisville’s success is driven by its basketball program. The Cardinals’ basketball team was the 16th most profitable football or men’s basketball program in the country in 2010-11, with $27.6 million in net profit, behind 15 football teams from the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Notre Dame.

The next most-profitable basketball program? Duke, with $15.1 million.

Those not familiar with Louisville attribute the basketball program’s financial success to the new KFC Yum! Center, where the team plays home games. The arena was financed by the city and a naming rights deal was struck with Yum! Brands.

However, in the Cardinals’ final year in its old arena, Freedom Hall, Louisville basketball was the 21st most-profitable football or men’s basketball program in the country with $16.8 million in net profit.

Others point to Louisville’s profits as the result of being one of a handful of universities that sell alcohol during football and men’s basketball games. During the 2010-11 season, Louisville’s take of concession profits amounted to just $461,000, though.

Louisville’s real strength is in fund raising. In 2010-11, the basketball program took in $20.2 million in contributions, more than any other public FBS institution. The average for all public FBS schools was just $977,456. The highest for any public ACC school was just $2.1 million, at Virginia.

The Cardinals’ football team isn’t doing too shabby, either. The football program was the 41st most-profitable in the country in 2010-11, even with a 7-6 record.

Now Louisville is poised to bring in nearly double the conference revenue it has received in the past. According to the Big East’s latest Form 990, it paid out $10 million to Louisville last year. ACC schools are projected to average $17 million annually as part of its latest deal with ESPN, meaning Louisville can expect a $7 million annual boost to its budget.

An extra $7 million in 2010-11 would have made Louisville’s athletic department one of the 10 most profitable athletic departments in the country.