Expense figures show Denver Athletics gets huge ‘Bang for the Buck’

The University of Denver just completed an incredible 2016-2017 athletic year with the men finishing #4 and the women at #53 in the Capital One Cup for overall athletic department success. Plus, DU secured the Division I-AAA Directors’ Cup for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons as the nation’s best athletic department without football. Incredible feats for a school Denver’s size but even more unexpected when you look at DU’s athletic department expenses and revenue.

Denver has one revenue producing sport, hockey.  Denver’s two other top programs, men’s lacrosse and women’s gymnastics, produce reasonable sources of revenue, but they barely move the needle at University & Buchtel. EADA reports that Denver earned $23 million in annual revenue and $9.6 million in student aid, both of which fuel Denver’s huge bang for the buck.

But expenses tell the real story.

Published figures from USA Today and EADA tell the story of the Denver Pioneers squeezing efficiency and success out of every cent of their estimated $34,188M annual team spend. USA Today shows four Division I schools have similar team expenses to Denver’s: Akron ($35.3M), Delaware ($34.3$), Buffalo ($34.2), and Miami – Ohio ($33.2). None, however, can be found in the Top 100 men’s or women’s Capital One Cup standings.

Sure, these peers have football – but what did it get them in terms of overall athletic success?

And the big spender? Texas spent $171 million for a 28th place finish in men’s athletics and 11th in women’s – more than five times what Denver spent on their athletic operations. A result like this shows that DU leverages its ‘no football profile’ to build a dominant athletic department. Still, there are many non-football schools that are nowhere near the top of the Capital One Cup standings as well. Also, the Pioneers operate without the huge revenue streams ($60 – 100 million dollar/yr.) seen by many Power Five conference members.

When looking at select private universities, the efficiency vs. success is even more apparent:

Table 1.

Private 2016-2017  Total team expense – Denver $34,188M  Efficiency Capital One Cup
Capital One Cup Standings
University – Name *Expenses ($M) vs. Denver 1.0 dollar spent Men’s Rank Women’s Rank
Northwestern 77,906 2.27 100 plus 45th
Notre Dame 108,543 3.17 21st 28th
Duke 91,971 2.68 44th 36th
SMU 56,909 1.66 100 plus 100 plus
Tulane 53,141 1.55 100 plus 100 plus

*Table 1: Totals include total team expense excluding student aid, recruiting expense & gameday expense. Source; EADA used for private university data.

When looking at the Top-Ten Capital One Cup finishers below for men and adding the women’s standings, again you can see dollar efficiency versus success.

Table 2.

Top Ten – 2016-2017  Total team expense, aid, recruiting, gameday  Efficiency Capital One Cup Standings Capital One Cup Standings
University – Name Expenses ($M)** vs. Denver 1.0 dollar spent Men Rank Women Rank
Ohio State 166,811 4.45 1st 20th
North Carolina 95,175 2.54 2nd 9th
Stanford 148,409 3.96 3rd 1st
Denver 37,440 0 4th 53rd
Clemson 103,059 2.75 5th 100 plus
Maryland 94,101 2.51 6th 7th
Oklahoma 127,268 3.40 7th 6th
James Madison 47,442 1.26 8th 100 plus
Oregon 110,202 2.94 9th 4th
Wake Forest 84,736 2.26 10th 100 plus

Table 2: Includes student aid, recruiting, game day expense and total team expense. Source: USA Today for public universities and EADA for private university data.

There’s no school in the country that is squeezing such success out of every dollar spent on athletics. And it’s not even that close. Denver should be commended for this effort and it will be a lot of fun to watch this program continue to succeed on a budget and continue dominating collegiate athletics for years, and hopefully decades to come.

8 thoughts on “Expense figures show Denver Athletics gets huge ‘Bang for the Buck’”

  1. Great article. This “best bang for the buck” is a DU drum I’ve been beating for a long time on these pages, and it’s a message that others should hear more often…

    One caveat – the word “revenue” in this context needs to be explained, otherwise people might think DU garnered $23 million from ticket sales, TV, league payouts, etc. They didn’t…

    In this context, I am pretty sure most of the $23 million in “revenue” came from DU itself as funding for the athletic dept, with the $9+ million in scholarship aid as a separate allocation, also from DU. Hockey does make more money than it costs, perhaps throwing $1-2 million profit back into the overall DU pot. DU will never make more than it spends in sports (only a few big football schools can do that) but we can all rest easily knowing that DU spends it’s $35 million very well in terms of team performance, academic performance and campus/community life.

    We should all be proud…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Right you are Puck Swami. It is always difficult, especially with private schools and accounting tricks (ex: charging ‘rental’ to the home team for facility use), to believe all the reported figures. Above ticket sales, DU does derive revenue via licensing and advertising which is a fairly substantial chunk of dollars. But, clearly, as you state, DU funds a large share – especially scholarships. These figures provide a good relative comparison, rather than an absolute dollar-for-dollar comparison, to see how DU uses their money. Just as you said, the benefit to cost ratio (efficiency), especially relative to other universities, is unbelievably good at DU.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is all about hockey. DU Athletics would be nothing without hockey. This blog, in its origin, was a huge supporter of mainly hockey. The hockey coverage needs an upgrade, for sure….


    1. Always tough to follow a legend. Based on our readership, hockey and lacrosse remain most followed articles. You may not be reading twitter – we probably have 300+ days of hockey discussions covering awards, recruiting, and competitor updates & news. We have added live interviews, press box reporting, special features and sent people to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff – all new over the past several years. We only do original content on LetsGoDU.com which includes lots of hockey, lacrosse and other sports. Much of our site traffic and discussion comes from sports other than hockey and lacrosse and we are going to continue to cover the other sports as well. Believe it or not, men’s basketball, gymnastics, skiing, soccer and even volleyball have generated a great deal of readership. That being said, we are looking to tweek the site this next year with potentially adding podcasts, possibly linking to a stand-alone message board, and more consistent weekly sports recaps. Also, since we are all volunteer, we are always looking for contributors – so if you want to submit ideas and original content we would be glad to give it a look to enhance LetsGoDU twitter, Facebook, and website.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. DU has a small fan base to start with, and it shrinks even smaller when you consider how many of them actually care enough to follow DU sports on the internet. We live in an oversaturated sports market here in Denver, and with so much else to do here, following DU sports on the internet is a small priority for most of those people who attend DU games.

    We are entering an interesting time in the history of college sports fans on the internet. In the 1990s, fans shared opinions primarily on message boards. There were several tries at starting DU-only- based message boards, all of which failed due to low numbers of posters. DU hockey fans (about 30-50 of them in peak years) did post frequently on USCHO, but that fan community has shrunk to about 10 these days. LaxPower has a few DU lacrosse fans who post there, but there are often days between DU related posts.

    Blogs came next, providing a place for content creation (and aggregation of content from other places) as well a place for fan comments, as many college message boards faded. Damien Goddard did a great job getting this blog started, and for creating the most sustainable DU fan community ever created, and Tim Thompson and Nick Tremaroli have done a great job with the second life of this blog, moving to a focus around original content creation.

    Today, I think all college sports blog traffic has been hurt by the growth of social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become more ubiquitous with younger audiences with ever-shorter attention spans, reduced appetites for reading and more interest in visuals. I get the sense that most of the fans who engage here at LetsGODU are over 30.

    I think older fans do appreciate all the unpaid work that goes into content creation here, but apart from a few die-hard younger fans who appreciate this place, building a fan base in this market is tough sledding, even as our flagship sports are at the top echelon nationally.

    I hope people keep engaging here – everyone associated with this blog’s content creation does so for the love of the game.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We are pretty pleased with the 2-year growth. We have over 1000 twitter followers and LetsGoDU Facebook which generates a great deal of site traffic. This article in the middle of summer had over 500 views yesterday – pretty good for this time of year. Twitter stands alone and has a very strong following – and that is where we break most of the news. This seems to be a format preferred by most younger readers. All in all, we are in a very good place – but still looking for ways to expand readers and comments as well.


  6. Silly comment above complaining about the hockey coverage. Dude–start your own blog if you don’t like this one. The hockey coverage is great. And DU is much more than just a hockey school anymore–sorry if it’s tough to wrap your brain around that concept. If hockey is the only sport that you care about, fine. Nothing wrong with that. Personally, my interest in DU sports is like 40% hockey, 30% lax, and fill in the rest with whatever other sports DU is excelling at, like men’s soccer, ski team, gymnastics, whatever. DU hoops isn’t on my radar, but that will change if they ever get competitive at that sport. I appreciate the blog’s attention to all DU sports.

    Liked by 2 people

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