Penn State Football: What are the Biggest Money Changes Since 2010?
March 09, 2018 12:00 AM
by Mike Poorman
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In Joe Paterno's last full season as head coach in 2010, Penn State football netted about $38 million.

Call if "profit," if you want — although the excess money went to help fund all of Penn State intercollegiate sports.

In Penn State's run-for-the-roses 2016 campaign under James Franklin, PSU football made a nearly $40 million profit.

Similar numbers. But how they got there was very different.

And a whole lot happened in-between. Like...

Multiple changes in staff, upgraded and updated facilities, STEP, attendance going down and attendance going up, doubling in coaches' salaries, variable ticket pricing, a beefed-up support staff that's grown by $4 million, increased revenues from media rights and the Big Ten and seat licenses, and the rising cost of tuition.

And a scandal.

But, profit-wise, Penn State football is back where it started — even though it is bringing in a lot more cash.

The Nittany Lions are winning again, under Franklin, with back-to-back 11-win, Top 8 seasons. It hasn't been easy. Or cheap.

In terms of wins and losses, it's been a good investment. To look at the dollars and sense of how Penn State football has grown and changed during that time, let's do a quick comparison.


Penn State's football expenses for the 2016 season were about $41.4 million, according to Penn State's report to the NCAA for the 2016-17 fiscal year, released earlier this week. That's more than offset, though, against revenues of $81.2 million.

Penn State's football expenses for the 2010 season were an estimated $21 million, while revenues were $58.9 million.

(A brief aside: Penn State's football expenses that year were officially $15.1 million, according to its 2010-11 report to the NCAA. But those numbers don't include any coaches' salaries. I'm adding $5.9 million, based on several factors: Penn State's overall budget for all coaches in all sports that fiscal year was $14.1 million, counting football. Traditionally, football accounted for a bit less than half of that number. In 2008, Penn State reported Paterno's salary and bonuses as $1.03 million. That did not include any outside money from Nike or Learfield Sports paid directly to Paterno — and thus did not show up on the Penn State books — so I'm going to count that here as a football expense as well, to get to the nearly $6 million overall, a number a couple of sources say may even be a bit high.)

By comparison, in 2016-17 Penn State's football coaching staff made $11.4 million, led by Franklin earning over $5 million in salary and bonuses. Payments made to Franklin from Nike and Learfield Sports come through Penn State these days.

Here's the bottom line, though: Football revenues went up about $22 million in seven seasons, from 2010 to 2016. And expenses went up about $20 million. It was nearly a wash, as 91 cents out of every new dollar in was spent in 2016 compared to 2010.

Here is a breakdown of the major areas for revenue and expenses in 2010 vs. 2016. Other than the 2010 coaching staff compensation estimate, all other numbers are based on Penn State's self-reports to the NCAA.


Overall — $81.2 million in 2016; $58.9 million in 2010. Over the past seven seasons, the biggest growth areas have been Big Ten conference and media rights fees and conference and Big Ten Network revenue-sharing, as well as donor contributions, many of which are tied to paying for the right to buy season tickets. Ticket sales dropped. Both budgets had big, unidentifiable "other" revenue streams.

1.) Tickets — $31.7 million in sales in 2016, with Beaver Stadium attendance of 701,800; $34.2 million in 2010, with Beaver Stadium attendance of 729,636. Variable pricing had an impact on revenues as well.

2.) Media, Big Ten, NCAA fees/rights — $26.1 million in 2016; $15.1 million in 2010.

3.) Contributions — $9.4 million in 2016; $2.1 million in 2010. For donations, seat licenses, etc.

4.) Programs, parking, concessions, novelties — $5.8 million in 2016; $4.3 million in 2010.

5.) Bowl game — $2.7 million in 2016; $0 in 2010. Reimbursement for Penn State's Rose Bowl game expenses and ticket sales.

6.) Endowments and investments — $1.7 million in 2016, $1.55 million in 2010.

7.) "Other" — $4.1 million in 2016; $6.0 million in 2010.

8.) Guarantees — $300,000 in 2016; $200,000 in 2010. This is money Penn State was paid. Away games at Alabama (2010) and Pitt (2016).


Overall — $35.65 million in 2016; $21 million in 2010 (estimated). The size and compensation for the support staff for football has exploded, causing a jump in annual expenses of almost $4 million. Coaches' salaries have basically doubled, and the cost of college continues to climb at a rapid rate. Recruiting costs are up about $1 million. 

1.) Coaches' salaries, benefits, bonuses — $11.4 million in 2016; an estimated $6 million in 2010, counting payments from Nike and Learfield.

2.) Student aid — $5.3 million in 2016; $3.6 million in 2010. Rising tuition, room and board, books, and cost of attendance has hit all Penn Staters.

3.) Support staff — $4.6 million in 2016, $605,000 in 2010. Football-only administrators, recruiting coordinators, quality control assistants, graphic designers, social media, etc.

4.) Game expenses — $4.2 million in 2016; $3.2 million in 2010. Seven home games both years.

5.) Facilities, direct overhead, administration — $3.8 million in 2016; $1.8 million in 2010.

6.) Bowl expenses — $3.6 million in 2016 for the Rose Bowl; the 2010 team went to the Outback Bowl, but expenses for that game are listed in other categories, likely travel and "other."

7.) Team travel — $1.3 million in 2016; $2.3 million in 2010.

8.) Guarantees — $1.7 million in 2016, with home non-conference opponents Kent State and Temple; $1.075 million in 2001, with home non-conference opponents Youngstown State, Temple and Kent State.

9.) "Other" expenses — $1.3 million in 2016; $1.6 million in 2010.

10.) Student-athletes' meals (non-travel) — $619,000 in 2016; $0 in 2010. There was training table in 2010, but not NCAA-mandated fuel stations, as there are now.

11.) Equipment, supplies, uniforms — $571,000 in 2016; $495,000 in 2010.


An excess of $39.8 million in 2016; an excess of $37.9 million in 2010.

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