Texas A&M remains the SEC’s revenue king, and the conference continued to reign supreme over college sports’ financial arms race during the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The Aggies’ $212.7 million in total operating revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, ranked second nationally behind Texas ($223.9 million).
The SEC had 10 institutions ranking in the top 20 nationally for total operating revenue. The Big Ten had four schools that ranked in the top 20 for total operating revenue, with the Big 12 and ACC accounting for two apiece.
Texas, Texas A&M and Ohio State ($210.5 million) were the only schools to top $200 million in total operating revenue. Rounding out the top five nationally were Michigan ($197.8 million) and Georgia ($174 million).
USA TODAY compiled the financial data in partnership with Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. USA TODAY published the annual database on Thursday.
The database does not include private schools that are not subject to public records laws. Vanderbilt, a private school, is the lone SEC school not included.
Every SEC athletic department except Missouri, Mississippi and Alabama operated at a surplus for the 2019 fiscal year. Alabama’s reported $21.2 million operating deficit resulted from a large, one-time accounting anomaly, according to the school.
The 2019 fiscal year figures reflect sunnier days for college athletic departments.
The coronavirus pandemic casts a murkier outlook for what athletic department ledgers will look like for the current fiscal year. Any disruptions to the football season, a cash cow for SEC athletic departments, would be expected to result in significant revenue decreases. Many schools are budgeting for decreases.
Tennessee athletics, for example, is budgeting for a $10.1 million decrease in revenue for the 2020-21 fiscal year, as compared to its budget for the previous year.
Texas A&M topped $200 million in total operating revenue for the third consecutive fiscal year. Its revenue figures during this time have been helped by massive donation amounts, used to pay for hundreds of millions in athletics stadium projects. That spending is not included in operating expenses.
The Aggies’ paced the nation with $85.2 million in contributions during the 2019 fiscal year. Georgia ranked second at $52.6 million, and Florida ($41.8 million) gave the SEC three schools in the top five.
The SEC also leads the nation in spending on recruiting.
Georgia topped the chart in recruiting expenses at $5.2 million, followed by Alabama ($4 million), Tennessee ($3.8 million) and Kentucky ($3.3 million).
Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M also ranked in the top 10 nationally for recruiting expenses.
Total operating revenue
Here’s a look at how SEC schools ranked in total operating revenue for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Schools are listed with their national rank in parentheses.
Texas A&M (2): $212.7M
Georgia (5): $174M
Alabama* (7): $164M
Florida (9): $159.7M
LSU (10): $157.8M
Auburn (13): $152.5M
Kentucky (15): $150.4M
Tennessee (16): $143.8M
South Carolina (17): $140.7M
Arkansas (20): $137.5M
Mississippi State (30): $112.3M
Mississippi (34): $108.4M
Missouri (37): $106.6M
Total operating expenses
Here’s a look at how SEC schools ranked in total operating expenses for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Schools are listed with their national rank in parentheses.
Alabama (4): $185.3M
Texas A&M (5): $169M
LSU (11): $149M
Kentucky (13): $144.9M
Georgia (14): $143.3M
Tennessee (15): $143M
Florida (16): $141.8M
Auburn (17): $139.3M
South Carolina (18): $136.9M
Arkansas (22): $129.6M
Mississippi (30): $113M
Missouri (35): $108.4M
Mississippi State (40): $98.8M
Operating surplus (or deficit)
Texas A&M: $43.7M
Mississippi State: $13.4M
South Carolina: $3.8M
Tennessee: $ 789,730
* Alabama’s reported operating deficit for the 2019 fiscal year is the result of large, one-time accounting anomaly, according to the school. Because of changes in federal tax law, the university’s auditors advised the athletic department to change the year in which it records revenue from priority-seating rights payments; this meant $24.5 million in revenue was deferred to the 2020 fiscal year.
+ Vanderbilt, the SEC’s only private school, is not included in report.
USA TODAY’s Steve Berkowitz contributed to this story.