DESTIN, Fla. —Creating the SEC Network was expected to provide a flood of cash into Southeastern Conference coffers, but even outgoing SEC Commissioner Mike Slive didn’t expect this deluge.
In short, the rich got richer than even they could have dreamed.
The SEC announced Friday that its member schools will split a staggering $455.8 million this year, a figure that includes $19 million retained by the schools that participated in bowl games last season.
The guaranteed split of approximately $31.2 million per school is nearly a 50 percent increase over last year’s take of $20.9 million per school.
It’s the largest revenue distribution ever by a conference, easily surpassing the $338.9 million the Big Ten doled out last year.
SEC revenues have grown every year since 1980, so another increase was no surprise.
However, the margin of this year’s increase, fueled largely by the addition of the SEC Network, was more than expected given that the network has only been on the air since Aug. 14.
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner estimated in February that each school would see an additional $5 million from the network this year.
“It would have been impossible to anticipate,” Slive said Friday on the closing day of the SEC Spring Meeting.
Slive said the increase was also partly due to the league’s participation in postseason competition, namely the new College Football Playoff.
He declined to say exactly how much of the revenue increase was due to the network but indicated it was certainly most of it.
“You can’t have the launch of the most successful network in cable history and not expect some increase in revenue to go along with that,” Slive said with a note of understatement.
Slive said earlier this week the SEC Network currently has 65 million subscribers nationwide.
At LSU, the windfall is already partially spent.
Athletic director Joe Alleva said LSU will use some of its revenue to cover the approximately $2.5 million in startup costs incurred by his department for the SEC Network. Each school was required to build a TV studio and make its venues HD-ready for in-house produced programming on the SEC Network’s website.
Alleva estimates another $3 million will end up going to increased scholarship costs and the “cost of attendance” payment schools will begin providing student-athletes this fall. At LSU, that payment will be approximately $3,100 per student-athlete.
For those reasons, Slive said the ability of the SEC “to provide (member schools) with significant revenue is more important than ever.
“This increased revenue is important for our athletics programs to continue to fully support broad-based athletics programs for both male and female student-athletes and to give them the opportunity to compete at the highest level, both in the classroom and in competition.”
SEC revenue sharing includes money from the SEC football championship game, its men’s basketball tournament and NCAA championships. It does not count approximately $1 million in NCAA academic enhancement payments to the schools or revenue from local media agreements.
SEC revenue distribution figures are for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.