The UGA Athletic Association consider student athletes an “investment,” said David Shipley, faculty athletics representative at UGAAA.
The association supports their athletes through scholarships and funding to academic counseling and health and wellness, but none of these funds are supplied by UGA or the state.
Instead, UGAAA generates a majority of its revenue from outside sources, mostly because of the football program. In 2015, $49 million of UGA’s $116 million in operating revenues came from football income, according to the UGAAA 2015 financial statements.
“Football are the ones that bring in the revenue that enables us to have a full range of sports,” Shipley said.
According to the UGAAA reports, ticket sales from football alone have continued to produce around $25 million annually since 2014.
The athletic association spent about $20.7 million to keep up the program, which is the biggest single expense of the $96.2 million total operating expenses in 2015, according to the FY15 report.
General and administrative expenses and scholarships are the next highest operating costs for UGAAA at $15.4 million and $11.3 million respectively in 2015.
These expenses are expected to continue increasing, reaching $27.4 million for general and administrative expenses and $14.6 million for scholarships in 2017, according to the UGAAA FY17 Statement of Revenue and Expenses.
Though student athletes do receive financial benefits from the athletic association for their sport, the workload isn’t light.
“I’ve never had a higher anxiety level than I did during soccer,” said freshman Erin Ratchick, a marketing major from Marietta,.
Athletes must go to physical training, practices and doctor’s appointments on an almost daily basis, said Ratchick, in addition to going to class and tutoring.
“They don’t really let your grades drop,” Ratchick said.
National Collegiate Athletic Association has regulations for student athletes concerning their academics, including being enrolled in at least 12 credit hours and being “in good academic standing according to the standards of your institution.”
Athletic associations in NCAA must abide by these standards for their athletes as well as others, including limitations on athletic scholarships and aid, Shipley said.
Shipley said scholarships are allocated differently depending on whether the association is looking at a head-count or equivalency sport.
For head-count sports like football, only a certain number of full scholarships can be given out. At UGA, 85 of the 120 football players are on an athletic scholarship, Shipley said.
Equivalency sports like swimming or equestrian have a set number of full scholarships for the team that can be split up into partial scholarships to encompass more of the athletes.
UGA has 15 full scholarships to distribute to the 65 women swimmers, Shipley said.
“We have more student athletes than we have athletic scholarships permitted to award,” Shipley said.
For the scholarships, the cost of attendance is calculated using information from the Department of Education, Office of Financial Aid and Provost Office, which should be the “overall figure a Georgian would pay at UGA,” Shipley said.
He said that because of changes to the NCAA rules, the association is able to provide additional financial aid to athletes’ full scholarships, which equates to a $250 weekly stipend intended for food.
The association doesn’t just use their revenue to help student athletes.
Shipley said the athletic association directly transfers up to $5 million annually to UGA President Jere Morehead to use at his discretion for student and faculty support.
Money from the athletic association is used to support independent student research stipends that fulfills UGA’s experiential learning requirement.
“We’re fortunate the program is operating in the black consistently, and they can build into the budget support for students and faculties,” Shipley said.
Otherwise, Shipley said the athletic association traditionally spends conservatively.
According to the UGAAA fiscal reports, around $100 million annually-- a number that has increased since 2014-- is generated without cost to the university or students.
Despite the continued profits of the athletic association, student still pay for part of the sports programs and student athletes.
About 3 percent of UGAAA’s budget comes from student fees.
“The athletic association fee has always been there,” Shipley said. “It’s on the low side.”
The athletic fee for UGA students is one of the lowest in the state at $53 per semester, which UGAAA director Greg McGarity said is because the athletic association gets more money elsewhere.
The athletic association is “self-generating and self-sustaining,” Shipley said.
“As long as we operate how we’ve been operating, we can continue with this current plan,” McGarity said.
UGAAA has no plans of raising the prices for students, and McGarity said they want to make sporting events accessible to students, which is why most events are free and all are discounted.
“We could generate more money if we were charging students full-priced tickets,” McGarity said. “It’s a trade-off with the small athletic fee. We want students to attend sporting events.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Huffington Post did a 2015 study showing that from 2010-2014, colleges spent $10.3 billion on sports programs, funded by student fees, university subsidies and outside revenue.
The study found that subsidy rates for collegiate athletic associations tended to be higher where ticket sales were the lowest.
“It’s part of the college experience to experience outstanding athletics,” McGarity said. “Student provide the energy and create the environment. The impact students have at events is immeasurable.”
For smaller schools with lesser-known athletic organizations, their funds come mostly from university subsidies and student fees.
Georgia State University students pay $277 per semester for their athletic fee, pulling $17 million of their funding from this fee and generating $6 million in outside revenue in 2014, according to the Chronicle report.
Kennesaw State University also funds their athletic association mostly from students who pay $221 per semester, generating $11 million from the student fee and matching that with about $2 million of other revenue in 2014.
The Georgia Institute of Technology is on par with UGA, earning $61 million from outside revenue and $5 million from student fees in 2014.
The 2015 Equity in Athletics Data Analysis showed that without football and basketball expenses or revenue, Tech and UGA were also some of the only Georgia colleges to have their athletic associations operating in the black.
Despite the exclusion of football and basketball, UGA still led the schools with the highest net revenue of around $23 million. Tech came in second with a net revenue of around $15 million.
The KSU athletic association had around a $1 million deficit in 2015, and the GSU athletic association had about a $150,000 deficit, according to the EADA.
One of the reasons for UGA and Tech’s profitable athletic associations is their participation in conferences.
In 2015, Tech earned $13.2 million in conference distributions as compared to UGA’s $30.8 million, according to the schools’ FY15 reports.
Both colleges are in the NCAA, but UGA is the only Georgia college that participates in the Southeastern Conference.
“I think a lot of students like going to a school with a big athletic association,” Shipley said. “It adds pride in the institution.”