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The Bleak Picture of Purdue Football Financials

We knew it was bad, but not this bad.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Whoever takes over as Purdue's new athletic director will have a monumental task ahead of them. We all knew then, but in a recent article from Penn Live we see just how staggering that road is.

First, let's look at the numbers they are using. Purdue, as a founding member of the conference, gets the benefit of $32.4 million annually from the Big Ten. It doesn't matter what the athletic department does as a whole. It gets a fat $32.4 million check that everyone except Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland gets (and they will soon be getting full shares). This is good, because we desperately need it. That number will soon increase with the new TV deal pending. Penn Live goes on to examine financials closer, especially when it comes to football:

So what does each Big Ten school make on its own? Specifically, what sort of money does each reap on gross revenue from football, the cash cow of all college sports? It's all listed on mandatory U.S. Department of Education filings and it's a wide disparity from lowest to highest. You might be stunned at how unequal the haves and have-nots would be if not for the collective TV deal, set to mushroom even more with the next contract signing in 2017, half of which will reportedly be dealt to Fox.

So, as a warning, prepare to be very, very angry. I present the numbers each school brings in in terms of net revenue, followed by the profit that the football program alone earns as a way to help finance all other sports:


Football earnings



$17.1 million

$1.5 million


$26.9 million

$6.8 million


$27.5 million

$9.5 million


$30.8 million

$12.5 million


$30.9 million

$14.8 million


$31.7 million

$10.8 million


$35.8 million

$9.5 million


$44.8 million

$18 million


$52.4 million

$26.9 million

Michigan State

$59.2 million

$21.7 million


$60.6 million

$31.4 million

Penn State

$71.3 million

$36.2 million

Ohio State

$83.5 million

$51 million


$88.3 million

$56.6 million

Yes, half of the conference has, as profit, more money than Purdue brings in period. Rutgers, who has been in the conference all of two years, makes almost $10 million more than Purdue. In the world of major college football among the Power 5 conferences, where you almost have to be woefully incompetent to not turn a profit in the sport, Purdue manages a paltry $1.5 million profit.

Shoot, Michigan probably spends that much on Harbaugh's khaki budget.

Penn Live pulled no punches in a scathing assessment of Purdue:

Purdue's football program has endured a quadruple whammy lately:

1. Being a "basketball school"

2. Enduring through tough times on the field since the retirement of miracle worker Joe Tiller

3. Being in the less-attractive West Division.

4. The lack of panache of dreary 92-year-old Ross-Ade Stadium, last extensively renovated in 2002.

The result: the lowest paid home attendance in the Big Ten during the 2014 season (the one applicable to the last available fiscal report): 35,269.

After expenses, Boilermaker football netted less than $1.5 million in profit during 2014-15, also a league low. The men's basketball program actually turned a larger profit (almost $3 million).

I am speechless.

I mean, how does it get this bad with zero accountability? Let's look at each point of the "quadruple whammy"

Being a basketball school -€” This is a good thing, but hardly a major excuse. Indiana is a "basketball school" and it manages to earn $24 million in basketball alone, but as the article points out, that is extremely rare in college athletics. Even then, Indiana brought in a lot more money in football than Purdue in 2014-15. Even Ohio State, a football-first school, still had a $15.1 million profit from basketball, dwarfing Purdue's basketball profit.

It is wonderful that Purdue has a basketball program that brings in a profit. We all love a sold out and rocking Mackey Arena, but a sold out rocking Mackey Arena can only bring in a crowd that is less than half of our league worst average home football attendance. Basketball should ALWAYS supplement football profit. Somehow, Purdue manages to surpass it, and not because we are a "national name" program like Duke, Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, etc.

Enduring through tough times on the field since the retirement of miracle worker Joe Tiller -€” This has coincided with the expanded Big Ten, larger TV deals, and everything else that has caused profitability to skyrocket. It is not like Tiller retired last year. Purdue has played seven complete football seasons since he left and even made two bowl games. In that time Indiana has only made one bowl, and is still lapping us in profit.

Being in the less-attractive West Division -€” Excuse me while I make a dismissive wanking motion here. This doesn't seem to hurt Nebraska, Iowa, or Wisconsin. I guess they mean not getting Michigan or Ohio State to come in and boost attendance with their crowds.

The lack of panache of dreary 92-year-old Ross-Ade Stadium, last extensively renovated in 2002 -€” This is probably Burke's greatest failure right here. He failed to capitalize on the peak of the tiller era from 1997-2004 and continue the renovation he started. The Football Performance Facility will help a little, but those shiny renderings of a new south end zone facility and additional Ross-Ade renovations needed to happen a decade ago. They look great on paper, but when I see these numbers, the numbers going into the performance facility, and the notoriously thrifty administration I just don't see how it becomes reality any time soon.

Going forward Purdue is in deep trouble. I have seen our athletic department described as a welfare queen by outsiders and this continues to perpetuate that. The department as a whole has not won so much as a conference championship in three years. Yes, we as fans can do our part by buying tickets and donating to John Purdue Club, but that only goes so far. It is clear that the department as a whole has established a culture of malaise, always trumpeting that it is self-sustaining. Well, my friends, it is very easy to be self-sustaining when you run a terrible football program, but still get almost $35 million a year to stay afloat.

This just makes me very angry. It makes me angry to have a short-sighted administration that does not see how much more self-sustaining the department can be with investment in football. It makes me angry that they do not see that a rising tide lifts all boats, and an investment in football can raise the profile and competitiveness of all other sports. It makes me angry an empty Ross-Ade Stadium still turns even a small profit, and with those in charge that is perfectly fine. It makes me angry that there is no accountability for this. It makes me angry that things like the bobble head giveaway mentioned yesterday, which should be something viewed as a thank you to the fans, is instead a thinly-veiled way to boost "paid attendance" at a sport that should never have to stoop to such levels.

Unfortunately, I don't have answers. I am not a rich, sugardaddy booster. I give my $200 a year to John Purdue as I can afford, and I get my pat on the head as a thank you. I know I have no real voice to enact real change where it needs to occur. My only voice is this blog, and I hope that enough people read it and add to my voice that maybe we can collectively make a difference.