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How Much Does It Cost Big Ten Athletic Programs to Travel?

12 Jun, 2019

By: Michael Popke

Do you ever wonder how much it costs for major college athletic programs to whisk teams around the country to compete in NCAA Division I competitions?

Emily Bench, a staff reporter for Columbus (Ohio)Business First, did. And her report on the price of transporting, lodging and feeding student-athletes at Ohio State University and throughout the Big Ten Conference has people talking.

“According to operating budgets Ohio State shares with the NCAA, in 2017, the school spent a little less than $10.7 million in total on travel expenses, which include air and ground travel, lodging, meals for preseason, regular season and non-bowl postseason events,” Bench wrote in a piece posted online May 10. “The number also accounts for food for the team before a home game, as well as the use of the institution’s own vehicles or airplanes. 

“The numbers were collected from NCAA 2017 operating budget reports, the most recent data available,” she continued. “Northwestern University, a private school, does not share its budget publicly.”

Only Michigan, according to Bench’s research, spent more on Big Ten student-athlete travel in 2017 — but only by about $20,000. Wisconsin was in third place, with annual travel expenses of almost $9.2 million.

The smallest spenders were Purdue ($4.9 million), Indiana (almost $5 million) and Illinois (pushing $5.1 million)

Front Office Sports crunched the numbers further and found that, all told, the 13 Big Ten universities that disclose their financials collectively spent $94.2 million per year on student-athlete travel and related expenses. That averages out to almost $7.25 million per university.

Bench further broke down the figures, revealing (for example) that the Rutgers men’s basketball program runs a $5.9 million deficit, while Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team made a net profit of $13.6 million.

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