The Finances of Gopher Athletics

Aug. 21, 2014

The 2014-15 academic year will be an exciting one for Gopher Athletics. As each of the school's 25 programs prepares for the upcoming season, the approximately 750 student-athletes who proudly don the Maroon and Gold are working to achieve greatness every day.

The responsibility of supporting these Gopher student-athletes falls to Gopher Athletics. This means providing the opportunities and resources they need to succeed in the classroom, in competition and later in life.

Last year, greatness came to Gopher Athletics in the form of eight team conference championships - one of the highest totals in the Big Ten - along with 12 individual conference champions and an individual NCAA National Champion in men's gymnast Ellis Mannon. Gopher student-athletes also achieved in the classroom, earning 295 Academic All-Big Ten honors, 61 Distinguished Scholar-Athlete recognitions and a host of additional academic accolades.

To best equip each Gopher in this pursuit of greatness, Gopher Athletics must generate enough revenue to cover its many expenses each year. This is challenging, but the Athletics Department successfully met these demands last year.

The most fundamental cost is the direct scholarship investment made by Gopher Athletics in each of our student-athletes. These include the basic expenses most people associate with scholarships - tuition, fees, books, room and board. In all, this totaled approximately $10 million in 2013-14, a check the Athletics Department wrote to the University and continues to write each year.

Supporting student-athletes means much more than just basic scholarship expenses. Academic support and student-athlete development programs (which include professional and life skills development, community outreach programs and more) added another $5.6 million last year. Expenses associated with athletic training and competition, including team travel and equipment, amounted to nearly $9 million.

In all, student-athlete support accounted for about $25 million in expenses last year.

Additional expenses arise from maintaining, renovating and operating a host of beautiful, on-campus game day venues; hiring and retaining world-class staff; recruiting; athletic medicine; and even making sure our teams' travel gets them to their competitions on time.

Totaling every last line item, athletics expenses added up to approximately $96 million last year.

How Gopher Athletics generates that much revenue is no secret, but there is occasionally confusion among fans.

Minnesota, as one of 14 members of the Big Ten, shares in the money the conference makes from TV contracts, bowl game appearances and NCAA postseason tournaments. The U of M received about $28 million for its share last year.

Fan support is the other major revenue stream for Gopher Athletics. Last year, more than one million passionate fans came to the University's campus to support Gopher teams at athletic events. Ticket sales provided $23 million last year.

Beyond supporting teams on the field, Gopher fans also generously donated to the Golden Gopher Fund in a variety of ways. One of the most significant forms of philanthropic support comes from contributions to scholarship seating. These donations create a complete collegiate experience for Gopher student-athletes, preparing them for lifelong success. Scholarship seating generated $8.6 million last year, a critical piece to balancing the Athletics Department's budget.

Adding all other sources of revenue, which include things like licensing and sponsorship deals, sale of programs, concessions and novelties and the sale of select media rights, Gopher Athletics was able to balance last year's budget, running slightly in the black for 2013-14.

For more information about how the finances of Gopher Athletics work, check out the video below. For more information on the many ways you can make a positive impact for the Athletics Department and Gopher student-athletes, please visit or email

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