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Sports not breaking DePaul's bank

DePaul lowest overall spenders in Big East

Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08

basketball piggy bank

Samantha Schroeder

The Big East is arguably the most competitive conference in college basketball. Traditional powerhouses like Louisville and Connecticut fill the stands nightly with a raucous crowd, raking in dollar upon dollar in revenue that can be spread around to other sports. The Blue Demons' half-empty Allstate Arena gives DePaul athletics less to work with.

To get where they need to be, the athletic department pieces together the revenue from its sports, but also relies on money from the university and students' tuition beyond the athletic fee laid out on a student's bill. Still, DePaul spends less on its athletic expenses overall than any of its conference counterparts.

All students, both undergraduate and graduate, pay a $25 athletic fee as part of their tuition in the fall, winter and spring quarters—a total of $75 per student per year. The fee was approved by the Board of Trustees and supported by Student Government Association when it was implemented for the 2004-05 school year.

Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto said the fee was created not as a way to increase revenue, but as an attempt to build affinity and foster school pride.

  Team revenue Men's basketball revenue Men's basketball expenses
DePaul $14,245,247 $6,528,661 $6,528,661
Marquette $16,397,647 $13,877,475 $8,185,030
Providence $14,407,038 $6,460,838 $4,696,862
Seton Hall $15,379,053 $6,215,923 $6,215,923
St. John's $17,858,341 $6,741,298 $6,741,298

"The motivation at the time wasn't and still hasn't been [revenue], that's why we haven't changed the amount, we weren't looking to generate revenue off of it," Ponsetto said, adding that she's never felt like they needed to elevate the fee to offset any costs.

And there are plenty of costs—but not quite as much as at other schools.

For the 2009-10 Equity in Athletics Data Analysis report, the most recent available, the athletic department's total expenses for all teams was $14,245,247—the lowest number in the Big East.

Marquette, which Ponsetto considered the most comparable athletic program in the conference, reported nearly $8 million more than DePaul in team expenses, a difference Ponsetto described as "pretty compelling."

The two schools had about a $2 million difference in expenses for men's basketball. Marquette spent roughly $8.2 million versus DePaul's $6.5 million. But at the end of the year, Marquette came away $5 million richer, raking in close to $13.9 million from men's basketball alone. DePaul? No loss, no gain.

And for the Blue Demons, that held true for the entire athletics program, whose total expenses and total revenue were equal for the year.

As for the fee, DePaul President Fr. Dennis Holtschneider said the idea is to minimize the cost to students for access to athletic events.

"The way that you keep the cost of this down is, you spread it among many, many people, and that's the way DePaul chose to do it," Holtschneider said. "Every student has the ability to take advantage of it. And if you decide to take advantage of it, you get far beyond your money's worth, but it's your decision whether to take advantage of it."

According to Carolyn Lewis, director of business and financial affairs, there are only a few exceptions to paying the $25 per quarter.

"For instance, distance learners, people studying abroad," she said. "If you're studying abroad for a quarter then that quarter you don't pay."

The fee, which according DePaul is the lowest of its kind in the Big East, brings the athletic department about $1.8 million. That goes to a program that, in essence, broke even last year. And they are not alone. Marquette, despite making money on men's basketball, also finished even.

Of the 16 schools in the Big East, only six schools actually reported earning money from the athletic department. All six— Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, USF, and West Virginia—field football teams.

One of the ways DePaul reached the break even point was because of not allocated revenues—money that was not given to a specific gender or specific sport. The athletic department's not allocated revenue totaled $6,699,757 last year.

"It could be donations, maybe just to the athletic department in general," Lewis said. "Somebody just wants to give to athletics. They don't give to a specific sport or programs."

About $1.8 million of the not allocated revenue comes from the student athletic fees.

"If you add that to the $8-9 million that we generate in ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and Big East television revenue and all that kind of stuff," Ponsetto said, "so now you're looking at a little bit lesser number in terms of a deficit."

But there is still a deficit that has to get filled. And most of that comes from the revenue the university generates from student tuition.

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