In a rare, small and likely temporary setback to its position of financial power in college sports, the Southeastern Conference had a nearly 4% decline in revenue during its 2022 fiscal year, the conference’s new federal tax records show.
The document – provided by the conference on Thursday in response to a request from USA TODAY Sports – shows the SEC with total revenue of just over $802 million for a year ending Aug. 31, 2022.
It reported $833.4 million in revenue for its 2021 fiscal year.
Even with the decline – its first in at least 10 years – the SEC is likely to be far ahead of every Power Five conference except the Big Ten in total revenue for 2022. But the decline meant that distributions to its 14 member schools averaged about $49.9 million per school, a decrease of about $4.7 million per school compared to the distributions the conference reported for its 2021 fiscal year.
In fiscal 2021, the SEC also provided each of its schools with a $23.3 million advance on future conference distributions.
Why did SEC’s revenue decline?
Most of the decline in the SEC’s 2022 revenue and distributions can be attributed to each school having received a $4 million share of a signing bonus that the conference got when it signed a new football TV deal with ESPN in December 2020, which put that money into the fiscal 2021 cycle.
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The TV deal is set to begin in fall 2024, and will bring with it a major revenue increase that likely will go even higher when Oklahoma and Texas join the conference, a move currently scheduled to occur in 2025.
‘The Conference’s total revenue has varied as we manage through pandemic realities, transition of our media agreements and prepare for membership expansion,’ commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. ‘We are confident the Conference’s revenues will stabilize and increase significantly as we move forward to a new media agreement and growth to a 16-member conference.”
The SEC is the first of the Power Five conferences to release its tax records for fiscal 2022. Another factor in the decline in average per-school distributions, according to conference spokesman Herb Vincent, was the release in fiscal 2021 of $9 million that the conference had been holding in escrow from Mississippi because its football team had been banned from postseason play for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
In fiscal 2022, the conference also reported having increased costs for staging postseason events and $7.75 million in interest on the $350 million loan it took to fund the 2021 advance on future distributions.
So far, the conference has paid a total of nearly $11 million in interest on the loan. Repayment will occur after the TV revenue increase from the deal with ESPN begins, and ‘a portion of that revenue will be used to repay the loan prior to the schools receiving their annual distribution,’ Vincent said in an email.
Commissioner Greg Sankey’s pay goes way up
The new return also showed that Sankey was credited with just over $3.7 million in total compensation for the 2021 calendar year, nearly all in base salary. That represents a roughly $735,000 increase in Sankey’s pay (25%) compared to what was reported for him for 2020.
It’s the first time Sankey has surpassed $3 million in annual compensation, and the total brings him into line with the pay of other Power Five commissioners, who generally have been far ahead of Sankey since he moved into the SEC’s top job in June 2015 after working in other roles with the conference since 2002.