The sick man of the SEC

Believe it or not, there is actually an athletic department in the Southeastern Conference that failed to finish in the black for the last fiscal year.

USA Today released its annual finances report for Division I institutions and the report shows the University of Missouri was the least profitable school in the SEC with $97,848,195, some $2 behind Mississippi State.  Vanderbilt is a private institution and his not required to share their financial reporting.

Mizzou Athletics was the only program to generate less than $100 million.  However, it should be noted that overall, Mizzou is ranked 36th out of 230 public schools in Division I in terms of revenue generated.

What some may find disturbing is that the athletic department failed to turn a profit resulting in a $4.5 million deficit for the first time since 2012.

(Yeah, I know somebody needs an editor there.  But work with him, okay?)

The problem, as you can probably guess, is football.

During the 2016-17 fiscal year, ticket revenue shrank by about $1.15 million, down to $18 million. Sterk said his department has secured about 1,000 new football season ticket holders for the 2018 campaign, but football season ticket totals overall are down from this point a year ago.

The athletic director hopes that the football program’s south end zone project — which is still under construction and will provide more luxury seating to Memorial Stadium while reducing the capacity of MU’s football stadium — will meet the “changing dynamics of the new consumer.”

Yeah, good luck with that.  I suspect he knows there’s something else that would do more for that.

Winning will help generate more palpable excitement, of course. The Tigers return their top players on offense and defense from a season ago in quarterback Drew Lock and defensive lineman Terry Beckner Jr. But Sterk hesitated to say this is Odom’s best opportunity yet to prove he’s the right person to lead the football program.

“Yeah, I think we can make great progress this year, but you guys have been around — you never know,” Sterk said. “So something happens to players or things that occur, so I think you have to take into account all of those things when you look at, at the end of the season, was this a successful season? I try to do that when I look at it. It’s not just wins and losses. But, yeah, do we want to make postseason? Yes. Do we want to win our division? Yes, we want to do that. But it just depends on how things go.”

Sterk added that Odom took over a program that was “in a state of flux. I think he’s done a really good job of developing the culture of the team and the players and the coaches. So I think that we have an opportunity to have that all come together this year.”

Woo, no pressure there, Barry.  Good thing you brought SOD on board to help.


Filed under It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

29 responses to “The sick man of the SEC

  1. Bard Parker

    Freshman enrollment at Mizzou has been down the past few years. Those student athletic fees just don’t fall from the sky, ya know.


  2. TomReagan

    Hard to imagine failing to make money with all of the new revenue.

    Not the point of the post, but it did remind me of the turmoil that program was in when Odom took over. That Black Lives Matter statement his players were making was a tough one to handle, and from all appearances it looks like Odom did a great job there.


  3. Missouri should have stayed in the Big 12 for competitive purposes. Other than the money, it was dumb for them to come to the SEC where they went from contender (remember they were 1 win away from a BCS championship game appearance in 2007). They left their natural rival (Kansas) for what? An opportunity to play 6 schools annually they have nothing in common with.

    Still the fact they ran a deficit with almost $100 million in revenue is fiscal irresponsibility.


  4. Hogbody Spradlin

    Mizzou has seen declining enrollment. I imagine the athletic losses are related to that. Originally everybody blamed Melissa Click and that’s still low hanging fruit, but there might be more going on.


  5. Bulldog Joe

    Missouri won their last six regular season games and return what is arguably the most exciting offense in the SEC.

    Their problem isn’t football.


    • W Cobb Dawg

      If the fans aren’t gonna show up for that high flying offense last year, then mizzou may as well reconsider football altogether.

      Sure, they have Lock & Beckner returning, but not Heupel. Heupel has shown he can coach an offense about as well as anyone. SOD has his hygiene skills and a history of landing jobs he’s not qualified for.


  6. Bright Idea

    Mizzou will need to recruit the Deep South very well to compete in the SEC and their political history suggests that 4 and 5 stars from Texas, Georgia and Florida won’t be interested. They will always be pesky but likely won’t win big enough to pack the house.


  7. Go Dawgs!

    They’re building a lot of stuff up in Missouri, and they’re not doing it The Georgia Way by paying for it all in advance. They’re trying to expand the football stadium and compete in the arms race with the rest of the SEC and the Big 12 teams they’re competing against for recruits, and they’re doing it in a time when their revenues have taken a dip. The racial strife in their state and on their campus isn’t helping matters and has depressed enrollment.

    There’s something to be said for the way Georgia does things financially. I don’t want them to pinch every single penny and keep it in a vault, but erring on the side of caution isn’t such a bad thing.


    • 3rdandGrantham

      Correct. They had a ton of catching up to do facilities wise when they joined the SEC, and they still have a ways to go. Their stadium, if you’ve ever seen it in person, is an eye sore at best; I think it’s rather dumpy and certainly doesn’t look or feel anything close to an SEC stadium.


  8. Russ

    I was amazed that Auburn “lost money” a few years ago, but this is unbelievable. You have to try to lose money in this environment.

    And Barry Odom may have done a good job handling the turmoil a couple of years ago, but he’s a dead man walking. Bringing in SoD is the kiss of death. Plus, he schtick is getting his defense to play chippy with borderline late hits and running mouths. That only lasts so long, and doesn’t make up for poor coaching and lack of talent.

    Locke should have turned pro when he had the chance.


  9. SlobberKnocker

    I moved to St. Louis about 4.5 years ago and encountered an incredibly different attitude toward college football than I knew living in Atlanta for the previous 25 years. The general population, which includes a large number of Mizzou grads, simply doesn’t care about college football in general. Yeah, they will pay attention enough to know the scores and there are certainly a number of true fans but, the general attitude is one of disinterest. Now, strike up a discussion about the Cardinals or the Blues to a lesser extent and they are all in. But, try to get into a true discussion about teams and players and most will know very little and have a similar level of passion.

    However, I have never been treated as nicely at an away game as I have been treated the two times I have been to Columbia. I literally had people shaking my hand and thanking me for coming. That’s a stark difference from how I’ve been treated at Auburn, UT, USCe, and certainly in Jacksonville.

    And many of the statements above in this thread are true. Generally, their facilities lag verses the SEC and they are investing to improve. They do have a nice little stadium but, it pales in comparison to many of the SEC stadiums. But, their history as a relatively average program (since the 70’s anyway) combined with a general lack of interest creates a very sedate environment on game day.

    My opinion, I honestly didn’t do a tremendous amount of research, is that the lack of profit in the last fiscal year was due to 1) facilities investment, 2) declining ticket sales, particularly in football. The article the Senator quotes references a decline of $1.15 mm in ticket sales in 2016 – 17. I have no doubt there was a similar decline in 2017 – 18. I base this assumption on the previously noted turmoil related to the BLM movement in general and the Mizzou players specifically. Enrollment at Mizzou has plummeted since that episode in history with estimated freshman enrollment this fall to be approximately 4,000 verses approximately 6,000 in the fall of 2015. I believe they have seen a similar decline in season and individual tickets since 2015. The general decline in enrollment is clearly a residual effect of the racial unrest and ticket sales are related to this plus general disinterest in college football and exacerbated by a program that is performing to their average history.

    The final piece of this is the lack of any historical rivalries. The big names (like UGA) tend to draw good crowds but, generally the USCe and UK’s are simply another game on the schedule. Someone above referenced the loss of the rivalry with Kansas. The scheduling loss did happen in conjunction with MIzzou’s move to the SEC but, blaming this is short sighted in my opinion. There are teams/programs all over the country (us included) that manage to keep a historical rival on their schedule despite conference ties.

    At Mizzou, it just means less.


    • 81Dog

      I’ve heard the Missouri folks were really nice to visitors, but it’s hard to believe they are nicer than the ND people. Must be something in the water in the Midwest. I also got treated very nicely as a visitor in Minneapolis for the 91 World Series. Having been on road trips to places like Auburn and Clemson, it was really weird to be greeted warmly by the home team fans, but I could get used to it.


    • Argondawg

      Damn fine post Slobber! Nice insight.


    • Bulldog Joe

      One would think losing the Rams would send the true St. Louis football fans over to Mizzou. They’re certainly not going to go to Illinois ;-).

      Also, KC has a reputation for being a football town.

      Unlike Arrowhead Stadium, Columbia has good restaurants, music venues, and shops within walking distance of campus and the stadium. Mizzou could have great success under the right leadership.


  10. JAX

    I’m sure their close relationship with the BLM movement will save the financial day for Mizzou.


    • Trbodawg

      REALLY? Why in the world would you want to say that? What possible reason could you have? . . . Oh, yeah. Stir up shit. . . Grow up, man. We can be better people, if we just do the right thing. ( Or at least keep your mouth shut )


      • Got Cowdog

        What’s the Bureau of Land Management got to do with it?


      • JAX

        Disagree. Please do your homework before you comment. The Black Lives Matter movement used the University of Missouri as a staging ground for their absurd protests and the University President caved to these completely absurd and ridiculous fools. Guess what? The nation took notice, as did the graduates and supporters of Mizzou.

        The effect of the BLM movement at Mizzou provided short-term media attention but was ultimately very counterproductive to their protest and to the University as a whole.

        And before you start yelling racist and so forth, know that the alumna of the University have spoken very loud and in unison with their wallets. This does not make them racists or bigots or whatever liberal bumper sticker word of the day might exist. It makes them consumers who have choices.

        Btw, I love the Bureau of Land Management except when it involves them overstepping their authority with Oregon-based ranchers who, btw, were pardoned.

        In the end, I knew the Black Lives Matter episode at Missouri would come back to haunt both the school and the movement. I was right. Both are headed south but to clear, I wish the best to Mizzou. Good folks they are.