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Despite the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic that affected some revenue streams, the Southeastern Conference managed to fractionally increase its overall income and its per-school payouts during its 2019-20 fiscal year.
The conference had $729 million in total revenue for a fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2020, according to a federal tax return that the conference provided Thursday in response to a request from USA TODAY Sports. As a result, the conference distributed roughly $45.5 million to each of its 14 member schools.
In addition to the revenue shares, the schools that participated in 2019-20 football bowl games retained a combined total of $20 million to “offset travel and other related bowl expenses”, according to a statement by the conference.
For its 2019 fiscal year, the SEC reported $720.6 million in total revenue and per-school distributions of nearly $45.3 million to the 13 schools that received full shares. Mississippi did not get a full share because its football team had been banned from postseason play.
For now, the SEC continues to trail the Big Ten Conference in terms of revenue. For the 2019 fiscal year, the Big Ten reported nearly $782 million in total revenue, and the 12 of its 14 schools that got full shares received about $55.7 million. Based on schools’ recent financial disclosures, those shares will be in the same range for the 2020 fiscal year.
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The Big Ten generally does not file its federal tax return until the spring. So, its revenue total for fiscal 2019 has not been made public. However, through open-records requests, USA TODAY Sports has obtained fiscal 2019 financial reports to the NCAA for nine of the 12 schools receiving full shares.
The SEC’s new tax return showed that commissioner Greg Sankey was credited with just over $2.9 million in total compensation for the 2019 calendar year, including just over $2.8 million in base compensation. That represents a more than $400,000 increase in base salary over the amount reported for him for 2018 and a a more than $350,000 increase overall (other elements of Sankey’s compensation declined in 2019, according to the return).
In addition, the tax return showed that the SEC spent a little more than $340,000 on lobbying during the 2020 fiscal year. While that is relatively little in the SEC’s overall financial picture, the conference had $0 in lobbying expenses in any prior year. Like other Power Five conferences, the SEC has ramped up lobbying amid increased legislative action on the issue of college athletes’ ability to make money from their names, images and likenesses.
The SEC’s revenue from the NCAA declined, as the association had to dramatically decrease payouts after canceling the Division I basketball tournaments due to the pandemic. But the SEC reported spending about $10 million less on postseason events. It also collected money from an event-cancelation insurance policy on last season’s SEC men’s basketball tournament.
Meanwhile, the conference’s TV and radio rights fees revenue increased by about $20 million compared to fiscal 2019.
Follow colleges reporter Steve Berkowitz on Twitter @ByBerkowitz