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UCLA Athletic Department Revenue - Dan and the Bruins Fall Further Behind

The latest USA Today report on athletic revenues sees UCLA midpack in the Pac-12. At least someone in Morgan Center can be happy with the latest team to jump the Bruins

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USA Today has released their latest update to their database and ongoing series of reports on the financial health of most D-1 athletic departments.The first takeaway: in 2012, Arizona passed UCLA in athletic department revenue. Yes, Arizona.

The larger picture is not much better. With a total reported revenue of $71.7 million, Morgan Center and UCLA ranked #32 in 2012 in athletic department revenue among D-1 public universities, and #4 in the Pac-12 - behind Oregon, Washington and Arizona, and a few hundred thousand dollars above Cal. Keeping in mind that USA Today's study does not include private universities, it seems a safe bet that we also sit behind Southern Cal and Stanford in athletic revenue. That places UCLA squarely in the middle of the Pac-12 in revenue.

There is a lot to look at in that database - which shows data going back to 2005 - which we have written on over the past few years after USA Today releases their annual update. Revenue is broken down into a few basic categories, including donations/fundraising, ticket sales, tv/merchandise licensing, and university funding. Revenue from ticket sales took a massive nosedive in 2012, falling by 28% (or nearly $6 million) from 2011. The ~$14.5 million in ticket revenue was the lowest total for UCLA since 2006.

Looking at these subheadings of revenue, Arizona did get a large bump in donor money last year; double what they received the year before. It would be great to use that to explain their advantage and write off the one-year rise as a fluke. But... UCLA also recorded a similar one-year bump in donor revenue this year (from approximately $8 million to $16 million), as did Washington. For all three schools, the extra money comes at the same time as major arena/stadium projects on campus near completion (Oregon recorded an even larger one-year boost the year that Matthew Knight Arena opened). Looking further at the database, don't expect the higher figures from 2012 to repeat in 2013.

Earlier this year, Deadspin shared a a report by the Delta Cost Project which breaks down the various components of athletic department revenues and expenses. Part of the report and resulting Deadspin piece includes a series of tables breaking down expenses and the source of revenues broken down - separating out D-1 programs without football from FCS (football 1-AA) and FBS (1-A) programs. FBS programs were then divided into quartiles based upon overall revenue.

It may seem to be a lot to figure out, but the result is actually pretty simple. Looking at all FBS athletic programs together, 22.3% of revenue came from fundraising/donations. The upper quartile of FBS schools (the top-30 schools, with revenue of $70 million+ in 2010) gain a far greater level of funding from donors - 28.1% of revenue on average. The second quartile - consisting of a couple of non-BCS conference schools and the lower revenue big football conference programs average 21.4% of revenue from fundraising.

I mentioned earlier that UCLA's donor revenue in 2012 was just under $16 million. Per the database, from 2005-2011, donor revenue averaged $8.3 million/year, with a peak of $10 million in 2009. Over that same timespan, Washington averaged $13.69 million in donor revenue, Arizona averaged $12.97 million, Arizona State averaged $11 million. Even Cal averaged $12 million/year in that span.

Outside the conference, Michigan State averaged close to $18 million/year in revenue from athletic donations, Virginia Tech averaged about $15.5 million, West Virginia averaged over $14.5 million. Hell, Purdue averaged $12.5 million/year. And that is not even looking at the big boys.

Even with the large single year bump in donor revenue in 2012, fundraising accounted for 22.3% of Morgan Center's revenue, up from the 2005-11 average of just 13.9%. While Dan and his subordinates might be pleased with that 2012 figure, even this high (for UCLA) percentage is mediocre at best. The previous 7 years of athletic fundraising under Dan and Co were simply pathetic, falling fall short of major conference standards in pure dollars and in the overall proportion of total revenue.

Considering the strong support that Gene Block has given to Dan's fiscal management of the athletic department - and Al Carnesale before him, I sometimes wonder if weak athletic fundraising is a goal of the university's leadership.

It looks to this observer that Block (and Carnesale before him) have the opposite mindset of say, Max Nikias and Steve Sample across town when it comes to the relationship of athletics and the money and mindshare accruing to the university as a whole. Where Southern Cal has leveraged athletic success to help build up donor excitement and their endowment - nabbing one of UCLA's prized research labs in the process - Al and Gene seem happy with mediocrity at Morgan Center. Almost as if they see athletic donations and campus fundraising as part of a zero-sum contest.

There is debate as to the degree that athletic success helps campus fundraising, but I have never seen any legitimate report or thought that it undercuts overall university revenues. And whatever our feelings on Southern Cal, bringing in large sums of money is their strong suit. Maybe it is an explanation as to why Gene loves Dan so much.