Every year, Occidental submits the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) to the Department of Education to evaluate gender equity in sports. The reports detail expenses per sport by gender — including coaching salaries, recruiting, equipment, travel costs and other operational costs. The reports also collect data on revenues, number of participants and staffing costs and are required to be submitted annually by every postsecondary co-educational institution that receives federal financial assistance for intercollegiate athletics programs.
The Occidental analyzed data from 10 Occidental sports across four years of EADA reports and records from the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) to see whether performance was correlated with expenses, how revenues compared across sports and whether or not there were gender discrepancies in this data. The analysis details the 2016-17 through 2019-20 seasons, the latter of which saw spring sports cancelled March 12 halfway through the semester.
According to Anahit Aladzhanyan, assistant athletic director and head women’s basketball coach, the building of a budget can vary significantly by sport.
“It is complex. Some figures are decided by the conference and the norms of the sport. Number of officials and officiating fees, membership fees, number of games, entry fees to events (tournaments, meets, recruiting events, etc.) are examples,” Aladzhanyan said via email. “As the budget manager, it is my responsibility to build, plan, and overlook our budget; and I do this with much collaboration with our staff and our conference, and oversight by our athletic director.”
In a sampling over four years, higher average spending was generally correlated with higher levels of performance, based on the average conference record for a sport over four years. The top-performing sports of men’s track and field (.76), women’s track and field (.729) and men’s basketball (.625)* were above most sports in spending, but it is important to note that track and field usually boasts the most participants out of any Occidental program.
The number of participants on each team as well as the necessary expenses related to equipment, recruiting and travel for certain sports compared to others leads to an imbalance in per-participant spending for each sport.
For instance, while it requires both a large roster and expensive equipment to field a football team, track and field and cross country rosters are even larger—averaging 75 and 66 participants in the men’s and women’s programs respectively compared to 53 in football at Occidental. That led to an average $8,101 price tag associated with each player on Occidental’s football team over the last four years compared to $2,457 for a cross country and track and field athlete on the men’s team or $2,683 on the women’s team. And on teams with smaller rosters, which still require equipment such as basketball, the per-participant cost rises even higher than football to $11,340 for men and $11,966 for women.
The one notable outlier in the data is the Occidental football program which, before its cancellation, had the highest average spending over four years at $435,450, with the lowest win-loss record of any Occidental sport in that period (.036).
Football also received the highest ‘revenue’ of any sport over the four-year period, which is explained in part by a historic fundraising effort that sought to save the program. The team had a total revenue of $2,168,374 over four years, which meant the team raised $462,574 of excess funds in that period.
Aladzhanyan said that while a team’s performance does not positively or negatively impact that team’s budget, there is strategic spending in order to increase this performance.
“Examples include travel to enhance strength of schedule or to play in-region or out-of-region opponents,” Aladzhanyan said over email.
As a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III school, Occidental’s athletics does not bring in the same level of revenue as other Division I schools such as USC or UCLA who have the ability to sell broadcasting rights and merchandise for regular season competition. Aladzhanyan said the revenue brought in by Occidental athletics is not very significant.
“We do host some camps and events (like track meets) in which we bring in some revenues, but we do not charge for entry to our games for spectators,” Aladzhanyan said via email.
According to Aladzhanyan, Occidental athletics relies almost entirely on institutional and donor support in order to fund its sports.
“Donor support enhances our budgets, which are almost completely funded by the college,” Aladzhanyan said via email. “On the EADA report, institutional support is considered revenue, so the budget we get from the College appears as revenue. Donor support enhances our budgets and our student athlete experiences in two key areas: travel trips and special projects (which often include equipment items).”
While Occidental’s spending is within the range of other SCIAC athletic departments, it is noticeably lower than some competitor schools. For reference, conference rival Pomona-Pitzer outspent Occidental in every reported men’s sport in the 2019-20 academic year and it outspent Occidental in all but three women’s sports: basketball, lacrosse and softball. In that same span, Pomona-Pitzer had higher conference records in all sports with available data other than men’s soccer (2–2) over the last four years. For women’s sports, Pomona-Pitzer had higher conference records in all sports other than lacrosse.
Differences in revenues and expenses for women’s and men’s sports are likely to be less pronounced following a return to fall and spring sports seasons during the 2021–2022 school year, as both the funding for and costs of Occidental’s discontinued football contributed to a significant portion of this imbalance.
*The percentage points in parentheses are win-loss records, calculated by dividing a team’s wins by the total number of games they have played. A win-loss record for a team that won 6 games in an 8 game season would be 0.75. These records were obtained from each sport’s archive on the SCIAC website.
Elsa DuMoulin and Katie Moore contributed to the reporting of this article.