You may have heard that in the most recent (2013-4) financial report filed with the NCAA, Alabama claimed a $33 million surplus in its athletics operations while Auburn posted a deficit of $13.7 million for the same.
Setting aside the usual black magic, book-cooking disclaimer for any numbers a school generates about its athletics department, if you take it for granted that Alabama had a better financial go of it than did its neighbor on the Plains, there are some interesting takeaways from the linked article.
Start with this:
Both schools have won a football national championship in the last five years, but Auburn has gone through a coaching change and Alabama hasn’t. Same thing goes for basketball where Auburn made a change last year, while Anthony Grant has been in Tuscaloosa since 2009.
Auburn is on the hook for buyouts for former football coach Gene Chizik and basketball coach Tony Barbee, among others — adding an additional $4,846,662 in severance payments. Alabama, meanwhile, only paid $272,140 in severance payments in 2013-14.
The stability of Alabama’s two revenue sports has helped it avoid costly buyouts and build up its financial coffers.
Because Alabama hasn’t been on the roller coaster ride that Auburn football has enjoyed over the past five seasons, it hasn’t taken the hit financially. And that just doesn’t extend to head coaches, either, when you consider what Auburn is on the hook for replacing defensive staff this offseason. Assistants leave Alabama, but they do so of their own volition, which is a no-cost situation for the school.
The point is that while there is more than one way to skin the cat when it comes to chasing excellence, as a general rule, this suggests over the long haul that landing on the right guy and sticking with him through changing market conditions (i.e., paying your head coach $7 million/year) is going to be better for the bottom line than going the flavor of the month route. And for those who suggest otherwise, it’s worth pointing out one last note.
Auburn collected $4.384 million in student fees, while Alabama collected nothing. Essentially, Auburn students are directly subsidizing the athletic department.
Of course, those students go to Auburn, so maybe they don’t care, but all other things being equal, I bet they’d prefer not to stroke the check if they don’t have to.