A busy year for LSU athletics that included success and scandal saw a major boost in the department's annual revenue.
Within the 2018-19 academic year, LSU's highest-revenue sports stayed atop the headlines.
Tigers football won its first major bowl victory in the College Football era; men's basketball won an Southeastern Conference title while its head coach, Will Wade, found himself in the middle of a wiretap scandal and federal criminal investigation; former athletic director Joe Alleva was fired and Scott Woodward was hired; and the baseball team hosted a Super Regional before falling just shy of a College World Series appearance.
Meanwhile, LSU's overall athletic revenue rose to $157.8 million, an increase of nearly $12.4 million from the previous year. The department spent about $149 million, a boost of about $11.5 million from 2017-18. The most recent figures for all NCAA programs have not been released, but LSU's revenue ranked 14th nationally in fiscal 2018, according to USA Today, with a total of over $145 million.
The figures are included in the school’s NCAA financial report, an annual summary available through public records law that every school sends to college athletics’ governing body. The figures are for fiscal year 2019, which started on July 2018 and ran through June 2019.
Football is usually the highest source of revenue in athletic departments, and the money it makes supports nearly all other sports within a university. At LSU, football, men's basketball and baseball were the only sports to turn a profit in the 2018-19 academic year.
A 2018 football season, a 10-win campaign that included LSU's first major bowl victory in the College Football Playoff era, saw an increase in the football program's massive profit margin.
The sport brought in more money for the school than it did in 2017, and it was still enough to cover the growing costs within the program.
The Tigers football team made a profit of about $56.6 million in the 2018-19 academic year, an increase of nearly $1.5 million from 2017-18. LSU football pulled in about $92 million in revenue, most of it coming from ticket sales ($36.3 million) and contributions ($23.8 million). It spent $35.3 million, with coaching salaries topping out the highest expense with a total of about $12.4 million.
There was an increase in ticket sales of about $1.8 million from the 2017 season and a boost of about $1.7 million in contributions. Tiger Stadium posted three sellouts in 2018, and it was one of five college stadiums that averaged over 100,000 in paid attendance throughout the year, according to the National Football Foundation.
The football program spent $765,000 more in game guarantees than it did the previous year, and it continued to spend more on support staffers like analysts ($429,711 more than 2017-18), and on recruiting ($319,804).
Men's basketball also yielded an increased profit margin, nearly doubling from $292,921 in 2017-18 to $453,022. The $9.5 million spent on the sport was higher than any other sport other than football at LSU, with increased spending on assistant coach salaries ($503,476) and team travel ($165,979).
Much of the traveling was done in the postseason, when the Tigers reached the Sweet 16 with an 80-63 loss to No.-2 seeded Michigan State. LSU went 28-7 in their second season under Wade and the program won its first regular-season SEC title since 2009. Ticket sales increased by $279,591 and contributions boosted by $61,572.
LSU baseball, one of the few baseball programs nationally to turn an annual profit, made a profit of $464,109 in in 2019. That's about $120,000 more than it had in 2018. The baseball team, which advanced to the NCAA super regional championship series, made about $305,000 more in revenue in 2019. The team made $61,801 more in NCAA distributions, but ticket sales dropped by $19,654 from the previous year.
Coach D-D Breaux and her gymnastics team is still not yet a profitable program, costing the department about $2.7 million, but the program's revenue stream increased by $102,863 in 2019. The LSU gym program saw a 3.8% increase in ticket sales, a season in which the program finished runner-up at the national championships.
Out of LSU's 14 other sports outside of football, men's basketball and baseball, 12 of the sports lost more than $1 million. Women's basketball was deepest in the red, drawing a $4 million loss.
Overall, the larges sources of revenue in the LSU athletic budget are from ticket sales ($41.4 million), contributions ($40.1 million) and media rights ($39.9 million).
The department's largest expenses are coaching salaries ($28 million), support staff ($23.6 million) and student financial aid ($17.1 million).