While many businesses are struggling through the recession, one non-profit organization seems recession-proof: The SEC.
That's right, the league with 12 of the most prominent universities in the South is awash in cash, as illustrated by these nuggets gleaned from the SEC's Form 990 for the year ending Aug. 31, 2008 filed with the IRS:
n The SEC generated $161.6 million in revenue, up 8 percent from 2007. More than $135 million of that revenue was distributed to the 12 SEC schools (Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt), with each school receiving between $10.7 and $11.7 million.
Interestingly, this was significantly less than the $154.2 million that the Big Ten passed on to its member schools for the year ending June 30, 2008. Each of the 11 Big Ten schools received at least $14.0 million.
But keep in mind that these figures are before the SEC signed its new 15-year, $3-billion TV deals with ESPN and CBS.
n The public perception is that the SEC is a football-crazed league. Those perceptions hold true on the balance sheet as well with $54.4 million from regular season football games, a negligible 1 percent increase from '07. But bowl game revenue was $27.9 million, up nearly 10 percent from 2007 despite the SEC having one fewer team in the postseason. Throw in another $16.5 million in revenue from the SEC championship game, and the SEC's football-related revenue of $97.1 million in 2008 was 60 percent of the league's total revenues.
n As of Aug. 31, 2008, the SEC had $61.1 million in investments. While many folks' 401Ks plummeted in 2008, the value of the SEC's investments rose 12 percent. They also earned a whopping $8.45 million in interest, more than doubling the 2007 figure.
To put this in perspective, the SEC made nearly as much in interest as the Mountain West Conference had in total revenue ($9.80 million) in 2008. Unlike the SEC, the MWC is not part of the Bowl Championship Series, and does not get an automatic bid into the BCS bowl games with the largest cash payouts.
On the other side of the ledger, the SEC incurred expenses of nearly $154 million in 2008, up 3.7 percent in 2007. The biggest expense by far was the distribution of $135 million to the member universities. But among the other $26.6 million in expenses, there are some that will leave you scratching your head.
Let's start with trophies, awards and medals. We all have gotten one for some achievement in our lives. No big deal, right? Well, it's a big deal in the SEC as the league spent $561,828 on them in 2008. For some perspective, the league spent $737,904 on officiating in '08.
And then there's cars - yes, cars. The SEC office spent $92,000 on automobiles last year, which is roughly the same as it cost to run the 2008 SEC football championship game in Atlanta ($100,925).
Finally, there is the SEC men's postseason basketball tournament. The 2008 event in Atlanta, which was ravaged by a dangerous tornado that damaged the Georgia Dome, cost a staggering $4.2 million. In fact, over the last three years, the SEC has spent nearly $7.9 million on its postseason basketball tournaments - far and away the league's highest single event expenditure.
"The cost is high for the tournament because we take care of the travel expenses for all 12 teams to the site,'' explained SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom. "Also, the schools receive a per diem and travel allowance, which roughly takes care of 50 percent or more of their lodging. So you add that up, and then the rent for the arena and things like that and it becomes quite a large expenditure.''
The awards bill is due to sheer volume, according to Bloom.
"We award plaques and trophies not only to the conference champions but to everyone with academic achievements as well,'' he said. "Any athlete who makes over a 3.0 (GPA) receives an award so that can run into the thousands of awards.''
But the cars?
"Those are bought and eventually sold back to dealerships,'' Bloom said. "Various conference officials use them for travel to games (from the SEC offices in Birmingham, Ala). Travel for members of our office are often by car to most schools. I know roughly 60 percent of my miles (on his car) are business miles.''
Bloom declined comment on the status of the investments. He did say that unlike many of its member schools, the SEC office has not had any layoffs.
"We've been very fortunate,'' Bloom said.
John Lindsay is sports editor at Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.