LITTLE ROCK – State-supported universities in Arkansas spent $176 million on athletics last year, a 6.3 percent increase over the previous year. Two-year colleges spent $600,000.
About 72 percent of the income that was spent on sports came from ticket sales, license fees and sources of athletic department income. Almost $26 million, or 13 percent, of the money spent on athletics came from fees charged to students.
Universities may spend a certain proportion of their state funding on athletics. Last year they spent $12.6 million in state aid on athletics.
A state law enacted in 1989 requires colleges and universities to submit annual reports on athletic expenditure to the Higher Education Department. The institutions must use uniform accounting procedures and standard definitions of what amounts to spending on athletics, so that comparisons are valid.
The report on athletic spending in 2016-2017 was presented to the state Higher Education Coordinating Board at its October meeting.
The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville has by far the largest athletic program in the state. Its total spending on athletics last year was more than $106 million. However, due to the popularity of Razorback athletic events, the university brings in so much revenue from ticket sales, royalties and licensing fees that it does not use any state aid to supplement its sports budget.
The only other institution that did not transfer from its general education budget for athletics was the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Its athletic budget was $3.5 million.
Arkansas State University at Jonesboro spent $18.2 million on athletics, the University of Central Arkansas at Conway spent $12.5 million and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock spent $9.2 million.
Salaries represent a large proportion of total spending on athletics. All Arkansas institutions of higher education spent more than $62 million last year on salaries in their athletic departments. That was 35 percent of the total amount spent on athletics.
The Razorback athletic department spent $30.1 million on salaries. ASU athletics spent $4.4 million on salaries. UCA and UALR each spent $2.8 million on athletic department salaries.
The second largest spending category for university athletic departments was scholarships for players. The statewide total was almost $31 million.
The Fayetteville campus reported that $9.3 million went for athletic scholarships. ASU reported $5.5 million, UCA $4 million and UALR $2.5 million.
Other significant expenses of the Razorback athletic program were game guarantees to universities whose teams play at Fayetteville. That item cost the program $3.6 million last year. Debt service cost the athletic program $11.4 million. Team travel cost $9 million. Fringe benefits for personnel cost $6.9 million. Rentals and maintenance of facilities cost $7 million.
Equipment and uniforms for Razorback players cost $3.6 million. Medical expenses and medical insurance cost the athletic program $1.6 million.
Ticket sales to Razorback games brought in $40.7 million in revenue. Another $16 million came from the NCAA and Southeast Conference, which distributes revenue from television networks to its members. Broadcast rights for television, radio and Internet streaming brought in $30.1 million. Royalties and licensing, from firms paying for the right to use the Razorback logo and from sales of souvenirs, brought in $14 million.