LSU’s disappointing 2015 football season and three-game losing skid didn’t hurt the program’s bottom line.
Tigers football made $85 million in the 2015-16 academic year, turning a profit of more than $55 million. That’s according to two documents obtained by The Advocate: an audit of the athletic department released by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor and an NCAA financial report the school released.
The Tigers Athletic Foundation, a nonprofit corporation supporting LSU athletics, contributed more than $8 million to the athletic department for operating expenses in 2015-16, down $6 million from 2014-15. However, TAF gave another $14 million for LSU’s new tennis complex.
In all, the fundraising arm for LSU sports donated more than $22 million to the program last academic year, and Nike gave another $1.6 million. TAF does not normally reveal its financial details, but they were released in the audit.
The audit was carried out by an independent certified public accounting firm last spring and is performed each year to evaluate the athletic department. There were no findings from the audit. As for the second document, the school annually completes a full financial report to the NCAA.
The athletic department spent $129.8 million and made $141.6 million in 2015-16, making a profit of nearly $12 million, similar to 2014-15’s profit.
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Football was one of just three athletic teams to turn a profit in 2015-16, the norm at LSU. Men's basketball made $2.3 million, and baseball made $1.5 million. All other sports lost money, including a $3.8 million loss from women’s basketball and a combined $4.5 million in a loss from women’s and men’s track and field/cross country.
That is normal for most major college athletic departments. In fact, LSU is one of few institutions that profits off baseball.
Men’s basketball made $406,000 more in ticket sales last season as it did in 2014-15, a 24 percent increase that's likely a result of the highly anticipated 2015-16 season with star Ben Simmons. The team did not make the NCAA tournament.
In football, LSU made $3 million more in tickets sales during the 2015 season as it did 2014 because of two games, the audit says: the canceled McNeese State season opener and the relocated South Carolina game.
The school refunded a "majority" of the tickets sold for the McNeese game, but it recorded $2.5 million for loss of game insurance revenue. The Gamecocks-Tigers game was moved to Baton Rouge from Columbia, South Carolina, because of widespread flooding in the Palmetto State. LSU recorded $2.5 million in ticket sales for that game. The school paid USC a guarantee of $1.8 million, as it was USC home game.
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LSU baseball pulled in the most money from ticket sales of any sport at the school not named football. The program made $2.59 million on tickets sold.
Other notes from the audit or/and NCAA financial report:
- LSU paid about $2 million more in athletic student aid in 2015-16 for two reasons: an increase in tuition and because 2015-16 was the first full year that the NCAA allowed institutions to include full cost of attendance in scholarships. It added about $2,000 per semester to each scholarship, the report says. LSU awarded 300 scholarships to a total of 371 athletes, many of them receiving partial scholarships. LSU sports saw about 580 total participants in 2015-16, meaning there were more than 200 walk-ons.
- LSU lost nearly $200,000 on its trip to the Texas Bowl in Houston. Bowl expenses were $1.52 million and bowl revenues were at $1.34 million, according to documents.
- LSU football only used 82 of an allotted 85 scholarships in the 2015-16 year.