clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2015-16 Purdue Football Revenue: Boilers Still Last in Big Ten

Good news! Purdue made more money during the 2015 season.

Wisconsin v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

During basketball season we got on our friends at PennLive for picking Purdue to finish 11th in the 14 team Big Ten. As we now know, Purdue won the conference by two full games, but it was basketball. PennLive covers mostly Penn State and is closer to Rutgers, so we will give them a pass when it comes to knowing good basketball.

Penn State did win the Big Ten in football, however, so I think we can trust them to know a little more about football than us and our 3-29 conference record these past four seasons. They have once again dug into the financials of the 14 Big Ten football programs and it looks really bleak if you’re a Purdue fan.

The numbers they released were for the past fiscal year (2015-16), so they represent the 2015 season. Bear in mind, these numbers come with this caveat:

Other than its Southeastern Conference counterpart, Big Ten football produces a larger chunk of annual revenue than any other single entity in college athletics. Here are how the 14 B1G schools' football programs stack up based on recently released revenue figures obtained from the U.S. Department of Education. They are ranked bottom-to-top by gross revenue totals (not including broadcast rights payouts from the league) for the fiscal year 07/01/15 to 06/30/16.

Basically this says that Purdue fields a team in the second richest conference in the richest sport in all of college athletics, so it is pretty much a license to print money and something is severely wrong with the entire athletic department if you’re not bringing in phat stacks of cash.

Here is what the article has to say about Purdue:

14. Purdue: $18.7 million

Bringing up the rear, as it did last year, is Purdue. In the penultimate season of the Darrell Hazell regime, PU football managed to earn $1.6 million more in gross receipts than 2015 but that wasn't nearly enough to lift it out of the Big Ten's basement. Purdue football did turn a small profit of $1.8 million last year which is better than we can conclusively say about the next school up the ladder. This is one of two B1G schools in which the men's basketball program (+$3.1M) netted more than football.

Well, huzzah! We made a little more money in 2015 compared to 2014! This was during a season in which Purdue went a dismal 2-10 and was blown out in five of its seven home games. I am sure a home schedule of Virginia Tech (a team that generally travels well), Nebraska (same), and Indiana (a rivalry game) had something to do with this.

Still, it is deeply troubling that basketball, while clearly loved in West Lafayette, made $1.3 million more than football.

As a sidebar to that, the 2015-16 men’s basketball season saw Purdue rank 20th in the nation at 13,662 per game and 17th in overall attendance at 245,916. It was still behind Maryland (17,863), Wisconsin (17,287), Indiana (17,106), Nebraska (15,429), Michigan State (14,797), and Iowa (13,835), but I am fine with that. There is only so much you can do when most of those arenas physically seat 1,500-3,000 more than Mackey Arena. The PennLive article, however, goes on to mention that Indiana basketball brought in $11 million in net profit, Michigan State had $7.2 million in basketball profit, Wisconsin had $13 million in basketball profit, and Maryland had $9.5 million in basketball profit.

This raises the question of what in the hell is Purdue doing wrong that it is not turning a similar profit in basketball? I understand the arena attendance difference, but Indiana packed in 3,500 more fans per game and still tripled Purdue’s profit. What the hell is going on, Morgan?

In going back to football, I wrote about these same numbers last year when they were released for 2014-15. Now we have a baseline of two years to draw from. I suppose the good news is that yes, Purdue brought in more money even during a dismal 2-10 season. The bad news is that it pretty much did so by default. Remember: this includes the media rights deals, which go up every year. It is likely that any increase can be attributed to that as opposed to anything the athletic department did correctly. Basically, Purdue got a check for fielding a football team and correctly showing up 12 times.

Here is a chart of how the numbers look for the conference as a whole:

2015-16 Big Ten Football Financials

School Football Revenue Football Profit Difference from 2014-15 Basketball profit (if named)
School Football Revenue Football Profit Difference from 2014-15 Basketball profit (if named)
Purdue $18.7 million $1.8 million up $1.6 million $3.1 million
Rutgers $25.2 million unknown down $1.7 million not given
Maryland $30.1 million $9.3 million down $800,000 $9.5 million
Illinois $32.9 million unknown up $2.1 million not given
Indiana $35.2 million $11 million up $7.7 million $11 million
Northwestern $36.2 million $11.6 million up $4.5 million not given
Minnesota $49.3 million unknown up $13.5 million not given
Iowa $56.6 million $26.2 million up $4.2 million not given
Michigan State $64.7 million $32.7 million up $5.5 million $7.2 million
Nebraska $65 million $37.5 million up $4.4 million not given
Wisconsin $71.2 million $40.5 million up $26.4 million $13 million
Penn State $75.5 million $39.5 million up $4.2 million not given
Ohio State $86.6 million $49.3 million up $3.1 million not given
Michigan $97.1 million $60.6 million up $8.8 million not given

What is very troubling to me is that not only is Purdue last in the Big Ten, it is last by a lot. I understand Maryland and Rutgers being near the bottom, but even them being ahead of Purdue in terms of revenue is a grave concern because they aren’t even receiving a full media rights share yet. Maryland went 3-9, 1-7 and fired a coach, but brought in over $11 million more. Rutgers was 4-8, 1-7 and also fired a coach, but still had $6.5 million more.

I think the basketball numbers, what few were given, also paint a picture. Purdue has a successful basketball program. In 2015-16 we nearly sold out the season as the average attendance of 13,662 was just short of the seating capacity of 14,264. Something is not right when you’re performing as well or better than the top of the conference there, but you’re getting lapped by the field.

I understand that Purdue will never be on an even playing field with the top of the Big Ten. According to these figures Michigan makes almost $20 more in football alone than Purdue’s entire athletic operating revenue. We’re never going to get that high, but there is no reason to be as low as we are. what meager improvement Purdue had in 2015 in terms of revenue is pretty much Harbaugh’s khaki budget at Michigan.

It is flat out embarrassing that the likes of Indiana, Illinois, Rutgers, and Maryland are making so much more. There is no valid excuse that Purdue cannot be on par with these programs in terms of revenue. In fact, they are spending much, much more for not much better results, so it makes me wonder what corners we’re cutting just to get our expenses so low. Do we not have hot water in the locker room? Is there one cell phone for the entire coaching staff with no data plan? Do the players have to grow and harvest their own food for training tables?

It is simply staggering that Purdue is this far behind the conference, and even if Morgan’s famous $5 million opportunity dropped out of the sky tomorrow we would still be last in the conference in revenue by a comfortable margin. That tells me the problem lies much, much higher than being a bad football team. As we see from these numbers, you almost have to try to not make money to have numbers as bad as Purdue.

What will be extremely interesting to see is the next two years of numbers. It is not like Purdue football was demonstrably better with on the field or in attendance in 2016, but the change at the top form Morgan Burke to Mike Bobinski occurred. So far, Bobinski has shown to be much more forward thinking than his predecessor. When the 2016-17 numbers come out it will be interesting to see if there is much of a difference.