Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long has a rosier long-term outlook for the financial futures of major college athletics than some analysts.
In an April story in USA Today under the headline "Can college athletics continue to spend like this?", economist Andrew Zimbalist suggested major college athletics could be facing the bursting of an economic bubble.
Zimbalist argued the current rate of spending among schools in the Power 5 conferences -- reported by USA Today as rising $332 million in 2015 for the 50 public schools in the Power 5 vs. a rise of $304 million in revenue for those schools in that time span -- is unsustainable.
"There are big-time things leading it to pop," Zimbalist told USA Today, which cited ongoing lawsuits related to athlete compensation, the potential for concussion lawsuits and other issues as potential destabilizing factors.
"My initial thought is that 30-plus years ago, when I got into this business, that was the same dialogue," Long said. "It was not sustainable. We could not continue to grow at this rate. Again, over 30 years, we have continued to grow."
Long said differing factors, such as TV contract time, the success of Arkansas' teams and contract renewals with Nike and IMG lead to accelerated growth at various times.
"Revenue has continued, over the 30 years I've been involved, to increase, and I will tell you the dialogue, by concerned administrators and media and whatever is 'Can it be sustained?' " Long said. "I don't know the answer to that, but I would just tell you that over 30 years the growth has continued to be sustained."
The SEC and Big Ten have received financial boosts from recent TV contract renewals and the start of in-house networks. Media analysts have voiced concerns that other conferences, such as the Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12, might not be able to keep pace with their next round of TV contract renewals based on the marketplace.
"We're not one of those other conferences," Long said. "I would tell you that ESPN, our partner on the network, is a content company. Whether it's distributed through Hulu or X-Box or WatchESPN, they still have the product that is in demand and will continue to need to be distributed."
Sports on 06/26/2016