Fiscal Responsibility in NCAA Athletics: Maintaining a Sustainable Program

football player running ball down the field

Alex Ramsey ’20 takes off down the field during the VMI versus Samford game Oct. 12, 2019. VMI won 48-41 in overtime. Photo by Chuck Steenburgh ’86.

An early objective in the Institute’s plan to rejuvenate its athletics program was to put its athletic budget on a firm footing. Under Gen. Peay’s direction and with the approval of the Board of Visitors, Dr. Diles spearheaded a five-year plan to put VMI’s NCAA sports program “back in the black.” The goal was reached two years early – despite the expenses related to changing athletic conferences, Title IX guidelines and new NCAA requirements – and the Institute’s athletic revenues now consistently pay for current operations expenses. This was a particularly herculean effort – one that many college programs struggle to accomplish.

Scholarships: First and foremost, it is important that we enable our coaches to compete at the highest level of scholarship support allowed, not simply what we can afford. We must raise scholarships to the maximum limit allowed by the NCAA, a distinctively important component of the plan to build competitiveness. The NCAA caps the number of scholarship equivalencies for VMI at 203.8 across all sports. Thanks to truly outstanding private support, VMI currently provides 144 scholarship equivalencies. SoCon members with significantly lower tuition rates can spread their scholarship dollars across more equivalencies. We are competing for talented students who would thrive in the VMI system, but their decision is largely based on finances. Due to VMI’s tuition rates and available aid, VMI ranks last in the SoCon in our ability to fund NCAA scholarship equivalencies.

Coaches’ Compensation: Secondly, we must enhance coaches’ compensation. Due to the complexities of fully funding a Division I NCAA Program each year, VMI loses coaches to colleges with larger payrolls. The athlete-coach relationship directly influences the stability of the team, team loyalty and trust. Continuity in coaching is also a critical component of a successful recruiting program. The VMI athletic program operates at a smaller financial capacity than peer institutions. With the second-lowest annual expenses in the SoCon, it is difficult to pay competitive salaries. Currently, VMI coaches’ salaries are the lowest in the Southern Conference.

Recruiting Budgets: A third focus and commitment by the Institute is to provide our coaches with recruiting support to locate, scout and secure the very best candidates across the nation. With 14 NCAA Division I schools within the commonwealth of Virginia, knowing that VMI is not for everyone, our limited ability to travel beyond state borders to recruit athletes who will thrive in this environment is significant. The recruiting budget level is also an additional influencer when recruiting coaches. VMI has the lowest budget in the Southern Conference for recruiting. The new NCAA Portal process does not benefit VMI due to transfer policies and the Rat Line experience.

Football team running onto field, surrounded by cadets in uniform.

In three of four funding streams, VMI is at the bottom or second to the bottom in the SoCon.

Help Close the Gap

Funding Streams

Although we celebrate VMI leading the SoCon in private funding, it is simply not yet enough to offset the deficit in revenue from the funding streams that are limited by enrollment size and location. SoCon athletic program revenue generation comparison for schools with football programs that report. (USA Today 2017-2018 NCAA Finances)

Annual Athletic Program Expenses for the SoCon: 2018-2019

Competition begins with the planning and allocation of the annual budget. Largely based on revenues, VMI establishes a responsible plan that maximizes available resources while remaining fiscally responsible. The budget annually sets the course for the resources available in securing top athletes, recruiting experienced coaches, setting appropriate schedules, and supporting team travel. VMI hosts the third-highest number of NCAA Division I programs in the SoCon with the second-lowest operating budget. Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Sept. 17, 2019. Only schools with football programs are included for comparison.

Aerial view of VMI barracks.

The NCAA caps the number of scholarship equivalencies for VMI at 203.8. VMI currently provides 144 scholarship equivalencies.

Learn About 203.8