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.