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The numbers tell the story. And it’s rather compelling.

A visit to the Knight Commission On Intercollegiate Football’s web site is quite informative. It includes each FBS member’s annual expenses and revenue, as well as the monetary amount and percentages of institutional support and student fees.

It provides a keen view of just how successful or not so successful a college’s athletic department is operating.

Let’s examine Marshall University, for example.

  • In 2014, Marshall’s expenses were $29,440,000, but its revenue was $28,710,000. MU also received $10.06 million in institutional support and $4 million in student fees. That means the school got $14.06 million, thanks to 49 percent support. Yet, Marshall still lost $730,000 that year.
  • In 2015, MU’s revenue was $27,070,000, but its expenses were $27,400,000. Although student fees climbed slightly to $4.1 million, the institutional support declined $8.12 million. So, there was 45 percent support, which calculated to $12.22 million. But, again, Marshall lost money, finishing with a $330,000 deficit.
  • In 2016, Marshall enjoyed a remarkable year. Revenue was $30,160,000 and expenses were $28,910,000. Student fees rose to $5.08 million and the overall institutional support climbed to 46 percent ($13.76 million). That allowed MU to enjoy a profit of $1,250,000.

But, as it turns out, it was an anomaly, not a trend.

  • In 2017, MU’s expenses were $30,340,000, but profits were $29,290,000. Institutional support combined with student fees climbed to $14.35 million (49 percent), yet Marshall lost $1,050,000.
  • In 2018, Marshall’s expenses climbed to $31,820,000, but revenue didn’t keep pace at $30,610,000. Total institutional support rose slightly to $14.72 million, but it wasn’t enough to off-set the expenses. MU finished with a deficit of $1,210,000.

That means Marshall was a million dollars in the red for consecutive years.

  • In 2019, MU improved to $32,940,000 in expenses compared to $32,910,000 in profits. The combination of institutional support and student fees climbed one million dollars to $15.72 million. That led to Marshall finishing with a deficit of only $30,000.

What greatly aided the financial picture were two facts. The first was Marshall’s road game at South Carolina was cancelled due to a hurricane, but MU still received a buyout. The second was Marshall added a final regular-season game at Virginia Tech and also was paid for that.

But in 2020, Marshall was again on the negative side of the ledger. MU showed a loss of $346,000 despite receiving the highest institutional support in school history in the amount of $17.9 million. That was an all-time high of 55 percent total institutional support.

So, in the last seven fiscal years Marshall’s athletic department has made a profit only once, while losing money six times including seven-figure deficits in consecutive years.

This is why changes had to be made at Marshall.

It was the bottom line.

CHAD ON BOG: Cole isn’t the only Pennington, who recently committed to Marshall. His father, Chad, also has.

The legendary former Thundering Herd quarterback has agreed to become the newest member of Marshall’s Board of Governors, according to sources that have knowledge of the situation.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at

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