No college athletic department spent more than Ohio State’s did during the 2019 fiscal year, according to a database of financial reports compiled by USA TODAY Sports in partnership with Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
The database, which was released Thursday and used the latest revenue and expense reports that public schools are required to annually submit to the NCAA, showed Ohio State with $220.6 million in total operating expenses.
OSU’s athletic department also reported $210.5 million in total operating revenue, leaving it with its first budget shortfall in a decade. However, the size of the deficit was considered to be less than $1 million instead of more than $10 million, according to administrators who cited an internal report earlier this year.
Nonetheless, as Ohio State landed in the red, growing expenses, ranging from coaching salaries to facilities construction and legal fees, were a significant factor.
The Buckeyes ultimately outspent their peers by a wide margin.
Texas was the other school to surpass $200 million for total operating expenses, following as the next-biggest spender with $204.2 million. The Longhorns generated $223.9 million in total operating revenue, the most in the country, ahead of Texas A&M ($212.7 million) and OSU.
The rest of the top five nationally for total operating expenses were Michigan ($191 million), Alabama ($185.3 million) and Texas A&M ($169 million).
Ohio State remained well ahead of the rest of the Big Ten, which accounted for five other schools in the top 25 for spending nationally: Penn State ($160.4 million), Wisconsin ($154.6 million), Iowa ($146.2 million), Michigan State ($135.7 million) and Minnesota ($129.5 million).
Each Big Ten school had more than $100 million in total operating expenses. Northwestern, though, was not included in the survey. Only Division I public schools are included as private schools are not subject to open-records requests.
The total operating expenses that Ohio State reported to the NCAA differed from a similar internal management report for the 2019 fiscal year that included $210.9 million in expenses, nearly $10 million less in spending.
Both reports were obtained and reported by The Dispatch in February. At the time, school officials cited a change in external auditing requirements that lead to a sizable discrepancy.
On its report with the NCAA, it had a $10 million deficit compared to a smaller deficit of $624,359 on its internal document.
Illinois was the only other Big Ten school to report a budget shortfall during the 2019 fiscal year, showing a deficit of $1.6 million on its disclosure to the NCAA.
It had $118.6 million in total operating revenue compared to $120.2 million in total operating expenses.
Even with using reduced spending figures, Ohio State’s expenses were the most in the country, a product of maintaining one of the largest athletic departments.
The Buckeyes sponsor 36 varsity sports, a total matched only by Stanford among Power Five conference schools.
But last week, Stanford announced it was cutting 11 sports due to looming fiscal challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty over a football season this fall, a stretch on the calendar that it is particularly lucrative for departments.
Due to questions concerning the fate of football, OSU has not made a budget projection for the 2021 fiscal year, which began on July 1, but is operating with a two-month interim budget. Its revenue and expense report from the 2020 fiscal year is not yet available.
Prior to the pandemic, spending for athletic departments continued to rise in large part due to the revenue generated by lucrative TV contracts, along with conference networks.
That has been especially so in the Big Ten.
In the 2019 fiscal year, 12 Big Ten schools received $55.6 million from the conference, according to tax records obtained by USA TODAY Sports last week. Maryland and Rutgers received a smaller portion of the conference-generated revenue shared among members.
The Big Ten’s top payouts were higher than the rest of the Power Five conferences, including the rabid Southeastern Conference, which distributed an average of $45.3 million to schools.