Ohio State Buckeyes: Athletic department reports big profits ahead of projected financial swoon

Ohio State’s most recent financial disclosure to the NCAA does not show much fiscal damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

That will come next year.

For the 2019-20 fiscal year (July 1, 2019-June 30,2020), the department of athletics reported an increase in revenue of $23.3 million and a profit of $18.6 million.

Revenue increased 11.1 percent over the previous year despite declines in bowl revenue, payouts from the NCAA and a reduction in some conference distributions, among other changes.

Making up for those dips was a big increase in contributions and revenue from ticket sales as well as royalties and licensing. The department also saw a slight increase in money from conference media rights, concessions, endowments and investments.

“I feel for our student-athletes whose experiences have been hampered since the spring,” Ohio State Athletics director Gene Smith said in a statement. “While the full financial effect of the pandemic will be felt in the next fiscal year, I’m pleased with how the athletic department and athletes showed resiliency in adjusting to a sudden, once-in-a-lifetime situation that saw all spring sports except tennis canceled.”

The university previously projected a revenue reduction of $73 million for the current fiscal year, but the final impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that wiped out 2020 winter championships and most spring sports while forcing the football season to be shortened won’t be known for some time.

Here is a closer look at some of the 2019-20 numbers just released:

1. Spending was down $5.3 million from the previous year to $215.2 million.

An overall reduction of 2.4 percent was partly a result of budget cuts made at the end of the year with the pandemic in mind.

The cancelation of many winter sports tournaments cut income but also travel expenses.

Likewise, the spring sports season largely being wiped out eliminated expenses such as putting on games and travel.

A freeze in off-campus recruiting also is reflected in a 29-percent drop in recruiting spending to $2,015,358 for all sports.

In September, the school reported having already saved $5.6 million via a hiring freeze, stopping merit increases, elimination to travel, pause of some planned projects and other spending restrictions. Furloughs, salary cuts and reductions in staff size are expected to save another $7 million.

2. Ohio State reported reduced spending in almost every category, but an increase in a catch-all “other” category of expenses not otherwise identified offset some of those cuts.

Coaching salaries went down 7.6 percent to $36.2 million while the department saved almost 20 percent on travel expenses. Spending on meals for student-athletes was also down more than $500,000 or more than 10 percent from $4.6 million the previous year.

The “other” category of expenses went up 879 percent to $10,458,057.

Ohio State also spent $2,258,973 on medical expenses and insurance, an increase of more than 15 percent from the previous year.

3. The revenue increase was attributed mostly to donations, ticket sales and royalties, licensing and sponsorships.

Ticket revenue jumped $6.1 million (10.2 percent) to $65.9 million while the school reported receiving over $48 million in contributions, a 62.4-percent increase of $18.5 million from the previous year.

The school took in $46.8 million in media rights fees, an increase of 2.7 percent, while its No. 4 moneymaker was royalties, licensing, advertising and sponsorships. The latter category grew from just under $23 million in 2019 to $30.8 million last year, an increase of 34.5 percent.

4. Football accounted for most of the increase in ticket revenue.

OSU made $56,555,566 from football ticket sales in the 2020 fiscal year (accounting for the 2019 football season), up from $50,550,538 in 2018 when official attendance was the lowest it had been since Ohio Stadium’s expansion was finished in 2001.

While the department raised the price for most football season tickets about 2 percent, ticket revenue was also boosted by a total increase in fans of more than 10,000 for the season.

Wrestling, track and field, women’s basketball, gymnastics and women’s volleyball all reported increases in ticket revenue while men’s basketball was down slightly and men’s ice hockey revenue dropped more than six percent.

The coronavirus pandemic wiping out most of the spring season also meant a 97 percent decrease in baseball ticket revenue (from $65,730 in 2019) and a drop of more than 50 percent for men’s lacrosse (from $31,458).

5. Ohio State saved more money on football than anything else.

In its first full season under head coach Ryan Day, the football program spent $52.6 million, a reduction of more than $7 million (or 12.4 percent) from the previous year.

A chunk of that savings came via bowl expenses. After spending more than $7 million to go to California for the Rose Bowl after the 2018 season, the Buckeyes reported spending $4.7 million last year to travel to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl.

Ohio State also saved $2.2 million on Day’s salary compared to predecessor Urban Meyer, who retired after the 2018 season, and spent nearly $1 million less on compensation for assistant coaches.

The NCAA’s recruiting restrictions resulted in the football program cutting costs in that area to $662,128, a drop of more than 37 percent.

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