HBCU athletics revenue 2023: What do the numbers tell us?

Some of the numbers HBCU athletics departments are reporting may surprise you. We dig around the surface for more context.

The most recent numbers for Division I schools are in and while some HBCU athletic programs have increased their revenue, none are in the top third of their FCS brethren. 

USA Today released its latest revenue and expense numbers for the 233 public institutions at the Division I level, including 76 of them who play at the Football Championship Subdivision. No HBCUs were in the top 150 of Division I or in the top 25 of the FCS. 

Southern University was the top-ranked HBCU with total revenue of just over $18.1 million, good for 163rd in Division I and 35th best in the FCS. That number represents over $3 million dollars more than the amount reported in 2019 by the Baton Rouge, LA-based school. That number included an increase in ticket sales from 1.8 million to $2.1 million, rights and licensing from $1.1 million to over $1.7 million and student fees from $2.6 million to nearly $3.4 million.

However, its expenses went up more than $3 million as well. It spent $4.5 million on coaching salaries and $3.5 million in scholarships, both representing jumps of better than half a million in each category. 

Four other HBCUs — North Carolina A&T, Norfolk State, Delaware State and Tennessee State — ranked in the top 50. New CAA-member NC A&T was no. 44 with revenue of $16.3 million. Delaware State was just below it with revenue of $16.2 million, followed by fellow MEAC member Norfolk State at $15.9 million. Tennessee State, the lone HBCU in the OVC, was ranked 49th with $15.83 million.

NC Central, Celebration Bowl HBCU

Here are four other quick observations: 

-The SWAC bulk of the SWAC was in the 50 to 60 range — including Florida A&M ($13.71 million) at 62 and Jackson State ($12.8 million) at no. 65.

-Both FAMU ($1.1 million) and Jackson State ($184k) reported profits.

– MEAC and Celebration Bowl Champion North Carolina Central came in near the bottom with a budget of $11.3 million. That number was up more than $2 million from 2020, but was significantly lower from the period of 2017 through 2019 when revenue and expenses were routinely between $13 and $14 million. NC Central has dropped baseball since the 2021 season and no longer has to make trips to Florida as FAMU and Bethune-Cookman are no longer league members. 

-In fact, both of the last two Celebration Bowl winners — NC Central and South Carolina State (61) — are in the bottom third of the FCS revenue slots. SCSU reported $13.2 million in revenue compared to $7.8 million in expenses.

-On the other end of the spectrum, fellow SWAC member Mississippi Valley State University had the lowest budget among football-playing schools in Division I. It’s total revenue totaled just over $4 million dollars, just over $100,000 above where it was in 2020, but it is largely on par with or slightly below where it has been since 2015. For comparison, it spends $1.6 million on its coaching staff and $1.1 million on scholarships.

The bottom three slots were held by SWAC schools Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State. 

As private institutions, Howard University and Bethune-Cookman were not on the list. Maryland-Eastern Shore ($7.8 million) and Coppin State ($4 million) were on the list, ranking fifth and third from the bottom of the Division I ranks as they do not have football.

HBCU athletics revenue 2023: What do the numbers tell us?
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