A seven-win regular season and a midseason head coach firing in 2016 did not hurt LSU football’s massive profit margin.
In fact, the program pulled in even more cash than it did in 2015.
The Tigers football team made a profit of about $56.1 million in the 2016-17 academic year, an increase of nearly $1 million from 2015-16. LSU football raked in $86.1 million in revenue, most of it through ticket sales ($36.2M) and contributions ($24M). It spent about $30.1 million, much of that on coaching salaries ($11.8M).
The figures are available in the school’s NCAA financial report, a yearly summary each school sends to the governing body of college athletics. It is available through public records law. The figures are for fiscal year 2017, starting July 2016 and running through June 2017.
The school’s overall athletic revenue climbed to $147.7 million, a near $6 million increase from the previous year. The program spent $131.7 million, a $7.8 million bump from 2015-16. All the latest figures for Southeastern Conference teams are not known, but LSU's revenue ranked third in the league in fiscal year 2016.
As in most athletic departments, football is king, and it helps support nearly all other programs — aside from men’s basketball and, at LSU, baseball. Those are the only two other sports to turn a profit in the 2016-17 academic year.
The 2016 football season — and firing of longtime coach Les Miles — did not affect football’s bottom line. That can’t be said for men’s basketball. The Tigers won 10 games in 2016-17 and fired coach Johnny Jones. The team’s profit of $1.6 million last year marked a 31 percent drop from 2015-16, a 19-win season in which current NBA rookie Ben Simmons played. Ticket sales dropped 35 percent from 2015-16 to 2016-17. The program played two fewer homes games in 16-17.
LSU baseball, one of the only baseball programs nationally to annually turn profit, made a profit of $569,148 in 2017, about $1 million less than the profit it turned in 2016. The baseball team, which advanced to the College World Series' national championship series, made about $500,000 more in revenue in 2017, but a boost in coaching salary — about $1.3 million as a staff — is behind the profit number.
Coach Paul Mainieri made $2.065 million last year, almost exactly $1 million more than he made in 2016. That number includes benefits and bonuses, as well as a new salary figure he received after flirting with Texas in the summer of 2016.
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Coach D-D Breaux and her surging gymnastics team are making waves financially as well as on the mat. The LSU gym program saw a 46 percent increase in ticket sales last year, and it more than doubled its revenue to $617,004 in 2016-17, a season in which the program finished runner-up at the national championships.
Still, given its $2.8 million in spending, the gymnastics program lost $2.2 million. The same goes for most other sports at LSU not named football, men’s basketball and baseball. Ten of the other 14 sports at the school lost at least $1 million last year, with women’s basketball in the red more than any other ($3.999 million in loss).
Overall, LSU’s athletic budget draws most of its revenue from ticket sales ($41.9M), media rights ($38.9M) and contributions ($35.1M). Football is responsible for $36.2 million of that ticket sales figure. That is down about $3.5 million from the 2015 season. That season, the Tigers hosted an extra home game (against South Carolina and profited about $700,000) and made $2.5 million for loss of game insurance revenue from the canceled season opener against McNeese State.
The most significant difference in 2015 and 2016 is the $2.1 million the football team received from the Green Bay Packers for playing against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field. Also, overall athletic department contributions and media rights were each up about $3.5 million in 2016-17.
In somewhat of a surprise, the football program in 2016-17 used just 78 of an allotted 85 scholarships, according to the documents. Also, 61 football players received Pell Grants last year, totaling $293,815 ($4,700 per athlete). That accounts for about half of the LSU athletes who received the federal need-based aid (123 athletes at LSU received $562,886).
The athletic department’s largest expenditure is, on a yearly basis, coaching salaries. The Tigers spent $25.4 million on them in 2016-17, about $3.3 more than the school did in 2015-16.
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LSU athletics revenue/expenses by sport for 2016-17 academic year.
Ranked by revenue.
*Profit/loss figures in the millions are rounded. The totals also include revenues and expenses not specific to an individual sport.
The program sponsors a total of 21 sports, but combines the finances of six sports (men’s and women’s outdoor and indoor track and men’s and women’s cross country) to two (men’s and women’s track and cross country).
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LSU athletics major revenues by category for 2016-17 academic year.
All others/non-sport specific
LSU athletics expenses by category for 2016-17 academic year.
All others/non-sport specific