SBD/Issue 33/Collegiate Sports

Gator Aid: Florida's Athletic Revenues Over $82M In '06

Univ. Of Florida One Of Few Schools Whose
Athletic Department Operates In Black
The Univ. of Florida (UF) athletic department earned $82.4M in revenue in '06, the most in the SEC and the fifth-highest figure in the NCAA, according to Brian O'Keefe of FORTUNE.  UF's athletic department, like many schools "with competitive Division I sports programs ... is organized as a separate not-for-profit foundation, with its own budget." However in '06, UF's athletic department "operated in the black ... unlike all but 20 or so of its peers nationwide." Over the past 17 years, the athletic department has donated about $40M to the school, including $6M this year. The Gator Boosters, a private foundation that supports UF athletics, is responsible for over a third of all revenue coming into the department, including $38M this year.  The majority of that comes from annual dues from the over 13,000 members of the club.  The top donors, known as Bull Gators, contribute at least $12,000 per year, with the minimum soon to increase to $15,000. The number of Bull Gators has grown from around 600 in '04 to 892. Bull Gator Gale Lemerand, one of the "biggest donors in [UF] history," has donated over $5M to the athletic program.  He helped "refurbish the football offices" under former coach Steve Spurrier and he recently sold a lakefront house next to his to current UF football coach Urban Meyer.  O'Keefe notes concerns about "big money in college sports aren't new, but the huge sums now being raised provoke hand-wringing." U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, earlier this year "launched an investigation ... into whether athletics donations should remain tax-deductible." Bull Gator and former American Bankers Association President Hjalma Johnson said, "If you said that money paid to Gator Boosters is not tax-deductible you can forget 18 of your 20 sports, because football and basketball are the only ones that pay their own way" (FORTUNE, 10/29 issue).

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