Florida State Saw 2023 Costs Soar Ahead of ACC Exit Fight

Florida State University says it spent $172 million on athletics in 2022-23, a $22 million spike from the previous year. However, the Seminoles’ revenue did not keep pace over that same period of time, increasing only about $9 million—from $161 million to $170 million. In light of this, FSU athletics reported ending the 2023 fiscal year with an overall deficit of $2.5 million, having previously claimed a $10.4 million surplus in FY22.

It’s the latest lens on a Seminoles program that has been vocal about financially falling behind its rivals in other conferences. Florida State is currently suing to get out of the ACC in hopes of landing in a richer league, and the school is also in talks to raise private equity funds to bridge the revenue gap.

These FSU numbers come from the school’s NCAA Membership Financial Reporting disclosures, which Sportico obtained through a public records request. It is not entirely clear from the report what constituted the sharp increase in costs—a sizable chunk of which ($49 million) was attributed to “other operating expenditures.”

On the positive side of the ledger, Florida State saw a particularly notable increase in football revenue, thanks in part to bowl money and a big jump in year-over-year ticket sales, from $15.1 million in 2021-22 to $22.8 million in 2022-23. In all, the school’s football-related revenue was $91 million last fiscal year, as compared to $78 million the previous fiscal year. However, the cost of fielding its football program also increased dramatically, from $54.6 million in FY22 to $75.6 million in FY23.

That upward trend only looks to continue. Last week, the school signed head football coach Mike Norvell to an eight-year extension that is reportedly worth more than $10 million a season, making him one of the highest-paid coaches in the country. That deal followed pay bumps given to the rest of the football coaching staff in the wake of the team’s undefeated regular season.

Florida State is one of many schools reevaluating its position as the power (and money) in college sports consolidates around just a few leagues. The ACC’s media income has lagged dramatically behind that of the Big Ten and SEC, confronting FSU with what its president has called an “existential crisis.” The Seminoles estimate they will soon face a $30 million annual revenue shortfall versus their peers in those other conferences, and the school has been actively seeking remedies, some of which are unprecedented.

Sportico reported in August that FSU was working with JPMorgan Chase to explore the possibility of raising institutional money to help capitalize its athletic department, a deal that would be a first in major college sports. Those talks are ongoing, with private equity giant Sixth Street as the likely partner if a deal gets done. (Florida State has for months refused to hand over public documents related to that process, despite repeated outreach from Sportico and its lawyers).

Last month, the school sued the ACC claiming the rules that govern a school leaving the conference violate antitrust laws and are unenforceable. FSU estimated that under those rules it would need to pay $572 million if it left the ACC right now, a cost that is more than six years’ worth of Seminoles football revenue.

Gideon Canice

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