Though Atlantic Coast Conference schools are not happy with the reports of Big Ten institutions making twice as much money with their television revenues, the bigger concern is just down the road in the SEC.
The SEC reportedly made $40.9 million per school last year in television revenue thanks mostly to the SEC Network, nearly $15 million more than ACC schools. It hits even closer to home for ACC schools such as Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Louisville, who compete against an in-state rival that is a member of the SEC.
Clemson is expecting a check of approximately $26.9 million from the ACC as part of its television and rights fees.
“The concern now and the condition that we are living in is the big gap from $26 million to $41 million to $51 million. That is a concern,” Clemson’s Deputy Athletic Director, Graham Neff, said to The Clemson Insider.
The ACC will not see a major uptick in its television rights deal with ESPN until its own network is launched in August of 2019. The conference’s expectation is to make at least $10 million more per year once the monies from the ACC Network start coming in after the 2019-’20 fiscal year.
That means ACC schools like Clemson have to find ways to stay competitive with its SEC brethren who have a $15 million competitive advantage right out of the gate.
“We talk a lot with our campus leadership,” Neff said.
Luckily for Clemson, it has IPTAY. In 2016-’17, IPTAY brought in $39.7 million with its annual gift fund, $26.2 million more than South Carolina made with its Gamecock Club, its athletic department’s annual fundraising arm.
“IPTAY has been so strong and they have been such a gap filler when you compare IPTAY’s revenue and donor support compared to the Gamecock Club,” Neff said. “I don’t have those numbers, but IPTAY has been such a gap filler for years in particular these last handful of years when we have seen such success there.”
Clemson also found other efficient ways to help its budget such as efficient operations and coaching structures. Besides IPTAY, the biggest help for Clemson has been its football program.
Under Dabo Swinney, Clemson’s football program has reached unprecedented heights in the last seven years, while posting an 82-15 overall record, second only to Alabama. The Tigers have won four ACC Championships during this time, played in three straight College Football Playoff, played in two national championship games and won one of them.
“South Carolina has certainly invested within its football program, but certainly, we have really identified the revenue engine for us and it has proved to be a very good strategy with the people we have starting with Coach Swinney and the people on down,” Neff said.
Neff continued by saying they have also found good value in their Olympic sports as well, but these are the areas where it is hardest to keep up with South Carolina.
“If you look at the salary of some of our assistant coaches or head coach of an Olympic sport and compare it to South Carolina, we are probably liter in some of those areas,” he said. “Not across the board necessarily, but that is probably a reality.”
Though Clemson has lost the Palmetto Cup the last three years, Clemson is proud of where they are in the series. Of course the football team has won four straight against the Gamecocks. The baseball team has won four straight season-series against the Gamecocks for the first time in the program’s history, while the basketball team has won two straight.
The men’s soccer team also beat the Gamecocks as did the men’s golf team.
“There are areas where we are behind, but we feel like we have competed. When you get into the Palmetto Cup, and South Carolina has won it three straight years, we feel good with the ones we have won in that one versus theirs,” Neff said with a smile. “They have probably had a little bit more success in their Olympic sports than we have, but I think some of that is the other financial support that they get which helps resource those.
“We have tried to resource ours and we have had a lot of success in ours across the board, but it is tough sometimes when you start that far behind.”
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