How the Southeastern Conference got rich
By Jon Solomon and Mike Perrin
Birmingham News staff writers
Roy Kramer remembers when taking home $200,000 from the Southeastern Conference in the late 1970s was a boon for his school.
“Man, I thought that was great,” said Kramer, then Vanderbilt’s athletics director. “Today, schools would think it’s pocket change.”
SEC schools received on average $10.2 million from the conference office in 2007. And that’s nothing compared to the revenue schools produce for themselves, mainly through ticket sales and booster donations.
Per athlete, no conference spends more money, accumulates more revenue or has a higher net profit than the SEC, according to an analysis by The Birmingham News of institutional data filed to the U.S. Department of Education for 2006-07.
The numbers reflect that in this, the 75th anniversary of the SEC, the conference is not only about championships and tradition. It is also about money — lots of it.
While intercollegiate athletics is thought of as an enhancement to student life, it is also a big business, and there the SEC shines. In the past decade, it has doubled its payouts to member schools, reaching a record $122 million in 2007.