Iowa athletics brought in $115 million in 2017

Big Ten Conference money the biggest revenue-generator at $36.1 million

The Iowa Hawkeyes swarm the field prior to facing the Illinois Fighting Illini at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, October 7, 2017.  (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
The Iowa Hawkeyes swarm the field prior to facing the Illinois Fighting Illini at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, October 7, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa Board of Regents released its annual fiscal report for 2017 on Wednesday, including those for the athletic departments of the three state schools.

The University of Iowa athletic department saw a total income of just more than $115 million, which was $2 million higher than the estimated total released with the 2018 budget in July. The UI athletic department, which is self-sustaining and not reliant on university funds, saw increases in Big Ten Conference money, foundation support, premium seat revenue and general income.

The Big Ten Conference money increased from $34.3 million to $36.1 million, but according to the 2018 budget released in July, that number was set at $50.4 million for next year. The 2017 report indicated the increase to $36.1 million was due to additional bowl income distributions. The report said the foundation support was higher than budgeted due to additional income from scholarship endowments.

The general income was $8.4 million more than budgeted due to the transfer from the athletic reserve budget to cover the $6.5 million court settlement with former administrator Jane Meyer and former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum, who settled for the sum this summer following Meyer’s trial for suing the UI for gender and sexual discrimination.

Iowa brought in less money than projected for the 2017 budget in football and men’s basketball, a $67,738 variance lower in football and $222,204 in men’s basketball.

The report said the variances in those sports were due to additional football expenses related to higher travel costs, meals and midyear contract renegotiations.

Iowa’s biggest revenue generator continues to be the Big Ten money, which derives primarily from the league’s television contract. Iowa’s steady increase takes a big jump from 2017 to 2018, which is something athletics director Gary Barta, who it was announced Tuesday is taking a leave of absence to seek treatment for prostate cancer, said in early July the department has been expecting that $50 million number.

When Iowa submitted its proposal to the Iowa Board of Regents for the Kinnick North End Zone project, the submission included “conservative estimated increases related to television contract negotiations by the Big Ten,” which had not been finalized when the proposal was submitted in September 2016. At the time, Iowa estimated it wouldn’t receive more than $50 million from the Big Ten until 2022-23 — the estimate then put that revenue at $45.1 million for 2018-19 — which puts that revenue total four years ahead of the estimate.

The Big Ten money has been the biggest revenue generator each of the last three years. The last time total sports income — which has consistently been the other major revenue source — exceeded Big Ten support was 2014, when the Big Ten money was just $22,000 less than total sports income.

Men’s and women’s sports brought in $28.8 million in total in 2017, but the 2018 budget estimates a slightly lower contribution at $28.1 million, which means conference money will far exceed revenue from teams.

Barta said in July that the Iowa athletic department has essentially already spent the $14 million difference between 2017 and 2018 in conference contributions.

“The other thing we’ve done over the last couple years in anticipation of that money,” Barta said, “is we’ve been hiring more athletic trainers. We hired a full-time nutritionist. We hired another sports psychologist. We added cost of attendance to our bottom line operating budget. We’re spending close to $2 million more on food than we used to. With knowing the money was coming, and feeling very confident the number was going to be what it was, we’ve pretty much spent it all already in advance, in a thoughtful way.”

Iowa athletics income and expenses 2017 by Jeremiah Davis on Scribd

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