Assuming Voluntary Honesty And Ignoring Context, Iowa Basketball Is Sort Of Doing All Right

The source material is a couple months old, but we hadn't seen it until Card Chronicles posted a list of the most profitable college basketball programs in the NCAA. No surprise, they (Louisville) are on top. Everything in this data is to be taken with one giant honking caveat, however, which we'll explain later. CC's list:

School Revenue Expenses Profit
Louisville

25,494,904

8,625,245

16,869,659

North Carolina

19,852,544

7,488,429

12,364,115

Ohio State

16,115,419

4,697,478

11,417,941

Arizona

17,524,360

6,132,352

11,392,008

Illinois

14,507,336

4,772,399

9,734,937

Syracuse

16,817,122

7,784,244

9,032,878

Indiana

15,173,264

6,946,942

8,226,322

Minnesota

12,956,390

5,113,345

7,843,045

Kansas

15,737,145

8,219,362

7,517,783

North Carolina State

10,914,295

3,747,426

7,166,869

Tennessee

12,576,715

5,464,911

7,111,804

Texas

14,770,278

7,891,661

6,878,617

Michigan State

15,592,500

9,031,373

6,561,127

Kentucky

14,773,034

8,615,726

6,157,308

Maryland

10,793,864

4,891,205

5,902,659

Dayton

9,091,521

3,401,333

5,690,188

Northwestern

9,328,062

3,720,715

5,607,347

Xavier

8,791,518

3,938,466

4,853,052

UCLA

11,775,932

6,996,960

4,778,972

UNLV

9,230,385

4,644,437

4,585,948

We were a little surprised--just a little, we assure you, considering the abysmal attendance--to see Iowa not on the Top 20, mainly because just Northwestern holds a > $1 million advantage over #20 on the list. Turns out Iowa's 21st, but higher than the lowest three teams on the list. So Card Chronicles missed three or four teams in making the list. Whatever.

Anyway, here's the breakdown of the Big Ten teams. Turns out 21st in the nation isn't that hot for a team in the Big Ten:

Revenue_medium

Yikes. Eighth in the conference in profit, behind even jNWU. Which, where did they get that much money? Yes, Bill Carmody is probably paid about $16.35 an hour, but their income seems almost inexplicable...

...which brings us to that caveat, provided from the above CNN link and with our emphasis: 

The comparison between basketball revenues and profits is interesting, but not precise. That's because schools have latitude in their filings with the Department of Education in whether they attribute some expenses and revenues to a specific sport or a more general classification for their entire athletic department.

Many schools use that latitude to have revenue and expenses for one sport equal one another rather than show a profit or a loss, a trick of accounting that wouldn't pass muster with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

So, yeah. This could all be bullshit. For example, do we honestly think that Iowa basketball generated almost $2 million more for the UI athletic department last year than Purdue's team did for theirs? Jesus holy balls, no. We can't imagine a single metric by which Iowa basketball could have outpaced Purdue's last season, financial or otherwise. Perhaps it's an interpretation of endowments. Whatever.

And look, we get it; it would be impossible to divide every dollar of revenue up to a specific sport or general money (though considerably easier with expenses) without a measure of subjectivity; that, of course, is subject to its own biases. This data's impossible to standardize, so take everything with a BTN-sized grain of salt.

But even if you decide Minnesota's interpretation of their basketball program's revenue as bullshit, there's still an evident chasm of haves and have-nots in the conference. After all, given the numbers--which, yeah, but they're the best we can do right now so shut up for a second--we have Minnesota at #6 in the BXI in revenue and Iowa at #7. It's just that the gap between Minnesota and Iowa (over $3.5 million) is larger than the one between #6 Minnesota and #1 Ohio State (under $3.2 million). 

Still, though, seeing Duke report a loss based on an incomprehensively massive operating budget--they're not paying Coach K and his staff that much more than anyone else, are they?--we do wonder if the accounting leeway given to the schools has contributed to an unsustainable, unprofitable bubble that only Duke's willing to admit (yet). After all, it's not like they're building a new arena, or paying a bailout. Duke has arguably the most stable basketball program in the nation, and their expenses are fucking massive. How does that only happen at Duke and only Duke? Especially considering their explanation (again, emphasis ours):

Duke University, a top seed in this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament, reported the largest loss of any men's basketball program last year after years of annual profits in the $4 million to $5 million range. The school said that was due to a shift in revenue to the non-sport specific classification.

That doesn't pass the smell test, what with the program changing its classification of the revenue but not its expenses. Not unless they... oh god, they're paying off Bristol. If only we'd heeded Ice-T's warnings (speaking of warnings, this is just about the most ludicrously NSFW song ever).

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