FIVE BURNING QUESTIONS

There's gold in the SEC logo for a reason: member schools split nearly $600 million in revenue for the 2016-17 academic year.

AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hyosub Shin

The rich got richer in the Southeastern Conference again last year … but only by a little bit.

After total SEC revenue soared past the half-billion dollar mark for the first time in 2015-16 to $565.9 million, the conference announced Thursday that it is splitting $573.8 million among its 14 member schools.

That comes out to a few dollars under $41 million per school ($40.986 million), up slightly from $40.4 million per school the year before. The revenue distribution does not count a total of $23.1 million retained by SEC schools that played in bowl games after the 2016 season.

“This distribution from the SEC is instrumental to our universities’ athletics programs' ability to provide the highest possible level of support for the thousands of student-athletes who participate annually in nearly two dozen conference sports,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a news release from the conference. “This commitment to excellence encompasses superior support in coaching, equipment, training, academic counseling, medical care and life-skills development for our student-athletes.”

SEC revenue distribution took an enormous leap upward after the debut of the SEC Network in August 2014. The 2015 calendar year was the first full year for the network, taking each school’s SEC revenue from $20.9 million for the 2013-14 to $32.7 million per school for 2014-15 and $40.4 million last year.

Such huge gains probably could not be expected again this year. Still, SEC revenue distribution has increased every year since 1980.

The SEC generates money primarily through a variety of television agreements with CBS and the SEC Network’s parent company, ESPN. The conference also gets money from bowl games, the College Football Playoff, the SEC football championship game, the SEC men's basketball tournament, NCAA championships and a supplemental surplus distribution.

The total revenue distribution including bowl money is $596.9 million, with extra money going to the 12 schools that participated in bowls in 2016-17. The figure does not include an additional $7.8 million shared by all 14 schools through NCAA grants.

The conference also said more than 7,800 student-athletes participate in SEC-sponsored sports, with more than 5,400 of them receiving some measure of financial aid.

“The revenues generated from SEC sports are instrumental to advancing the academic missions of our 14 member institutions,” Sankey said. “Whether in the direct transfer of funds, in assistance with the construction and renovation of academic facilities or in support of academic scholarship opportunities or academic programs, these distributions are designed to provide each university with the flexibility to invest in unique and significant ways that provide positive outcomes across their respective campuses.”

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​