Friday, December 15, 2006

Reviewing Expense Reports

This is the time of the year when many of our expenses increase. Cards, gifts, meals, office parties and traveling combine to increase our outgoing cash flow. With that in mind, and with a dearth of notable baseball information floating around, I figure this might be as good a time as any to review some Big Ten baseball expense reports.

I stumbled upon this data rather accidentally. In reading Kyle Whelliston's superior blog/website/hoops haven, The Mid-Majority, I found he had data on athletic department expenses for each school. It made me wonder two things: First, where did the data come from? Second, was there any baseball information to be obtained?

Being the professional he is, Mr. Whelliston provided a link to another site entitled Equity in Sports. It's a government site, which I presume is keeping track of such things in order to enforce good old Title IX. At the U.S. Department of Education site, I found the numbers I am about to share with you.

Unfortunately, the site doesn't breakdown spending beyond providing a total. What precisely "expenses" entail is left to our imaginations. By saying that, I do understand expenses in a general sense. (Hey, I have expenses, for crying out loud. If anyone should know about expenses, it's a guy whose paying for a vet's new hardwood floors and my plumber's World Series tickets.) I realize that bats, balls, uniforms and travel would fall into expenses. However, does maintaining the field fall into the baseball budget or is that a seperate facilities cost? Do scholarships factor into the totals? Does providing a stipend to opposing schools fall into the expense column? Do accounting practices vary between institutions? These are the types of questions that I can't seem to find answers to.

I should also toss in one other note before proceeding. I began looking at these figures several months ago. Between the original time I collected the data and now, the numbers at the site changed. I found that the majority of expense figures had increased. All of the numbers, however, were different from my first visit.

This led me to one semi-logical conclusion. Well, I think it's semi-logical, anyway. The first set of numbers were for the 2005 season. The new, and generally larger, totals are for the 2006 year. Expenses go up each year, right? So, if the first set of numbers was smaller than the second set, the first set must be for the prior year, the second set for the most recent season. See, semi-logical.

Keep my rationale in mind when reading. I'll refer to each set of numbers as '05 and '06 without knowing for certain that's the case. If anyone can shed any light on the differing figures, including proving my hypothesis utterly inaccurate, my email is in the sidebar and you are always welcome to leave a comment. (A late secondary note. Be sure to read the Equity in Athletics Cautionary Note, their caveats and fine print. Maybe you'll unearth something I missed.)

One item that stayed the same between both sets of numbers was that the University of Minnesota had the highest baseball expenses in the conference. In the numbers I perceived to be from 2005, Minnesota had $320,713 in expenses. That figure was topped in '06 as the Gophers expenses rose to $344,056.

Once again, not knowing what constituted the criteria for "expenses", I do wonder if Minnesota got hit with providing it's opposition in the Dairy Queen Classic with a stipend for participation. Again, I don't know if they even offer the other schools a monetary reimbursement or how much of that tournament's overall cost is picked up by DQ. However, if any additional money is needed from the Gophers baseball expenses to fund the event, that could explain why Minnesota topped the Big Ten both years.

Of course, one could also argue that you get what you pay for. Minnesota had the highest expenses, but are arguably the best baseball program in the conference. The theory that says "those that spend the most, win the most" is also backed up by the programs with the next two biggest expense reports.

After the Gophers, Michigan and Ohio State had the highest expenditures. In 2005, Michigan's baseball expenses were at $263,751. Last year, they came in at $310,801. The Buckeyes 2005 expenses were $234,428. While in '06, the Bucks shelled out $292,765. The Wolverines finished second in spending, OSU third in both years.

Again, one could argue that spending directly correlated to winning. A strong case can be made that the Gophers, Wolverines and Buckeyes are the three best baseball programs in the Big Ten. A look at conference titles, Big Ten tournament wins, NCAA berths and other factors would only back up that assertion.

In looking at all the 2005 totals, we see Minnesota was first, Michigan second, Ohio State third. Then, in a bit of a surprise to me, Indiana came in fourth. The Hoosiers' expenses two seasons ago were $230,804. Michigan State followed at $205,123. The bottom half of the Big Ten began with Illinois at $204,958. The Illini were followed by Purdue $194,483, Northwestern $172,410, Penn State $170,944 and Iowa $143,287.

In '06, the Gophers ($344,056), Wolverines ($310,801) and Buckeyes ($292,765) finished one-two-three in expenses, again. The fourth place program was Michigan State. The Spartans expenditures rose to $237,915. In fifth place, was Illinois at $234,254. The Wildcats of NU came in next at $219,151. Seventh spot belonged to Indiana at $200,614. The Hoosiers spent almost exactly as much as Penn State which paid out $200,070. Purdue was next at $186,619. Iowa rounded out the group at $183,293.

I don't want to make too much about these figures. They are interesting fodder for a mid-December night, but like all numbers should be used more for illumination than support. Any number of factors could alter the totals. A sharp decline in travel costs could lower a program's expenses. That doesn't necessarily indicate an administrations lack of interest or support of the baseball team.

Conversely, when you see Minnesota spend almost twice as much as neighboring Iowa, you do wonder why the gap is so large. You might also wonder how the Hawkeyes can compete against schools that appear to have significantly larger baseball budgets? All fair questions, but we aren't going to reach any conclusions here.

I encourage all interested and, perhaps, uninterested parties to review the Educational Department's site. It makes for some very interesting reading. I may breakdown these numbers further at a later date. I might even get brave and look to see what college baseball's big boys spend and compare that with what Big Ten programs expenses look like. For now, though, this should give everyone something to ponder and actually provides me with some topical material to post.