For the 2015-2016 school year, the cost of a Wheaton student’s tuition was about $32,950, not including room and board. Most of this money goes to class-related activities such as classrooms, teacher salaries, etc. However, some of it also goes to the athletic department to support Wheaton College varsity athletics. But just how much money does the athletic office need, and where does this money go, exactly?
First of all, it is expensive to finance collegiate sports. In 2013, just one football game cost the college about $146,321. Multiply that by an average of five home football games, plus any other expenses that may occur such as preseason meals or transportation for the team, and it costs about $582,639 per season to fund the football team. However, that is also because they are such a large team. For a nine-man golf team, it costs a whopping average of $4,177 per player every time they have a match, by far the most expensive per-player sport. For comparison, football’s cost-per-player is only $1,508. On the women’s side of things, basketball costs the most to fund at $41,398 per game, but the cost-per-player of tennis is the highest at $3,037. As far as coaches’ salaries are concerned, the athletic department lets Wheaton’s human resources department handles those separately. All in all, the grand total of expenses during the 2013-2014 athletic season came to $3,585,901. So where does the college get that much money?
Despite the large amount of expenses compared to other colleges — Illinois Wesleyan’s $2,452,406, North Central’s $2,618,281, Hope College’s $2,655,938 or Calvin College’s $2,123,347 — Wheaton’s revenue earnings are also much higher than comparable schools. Wheaton’s revenues totaled $3,985,995 during 2013-2014. Ticket earnings and donations are included in revenues, but the vast majority of revenue comes from budget allocations from the college, otherwise known as students’ tuition money.
Speaking specifically about the college’s revenue, associate athletics director Bill Stukes explained, “I would say about a quarter of a million dollars or so is fundraised, 60-70 thousand dollars comes from gate revenue, 100 thousand dollars from various endowment funds that pay into athletics and then the rest comes from college budget allocations.”
Stukes explained that any extra money, which in the 2013-2014 athletic year totaled a little over $400,000, is simply carried over to help with expenses for the next year.
Other expenses taken into account are recruiting expenses. The men’s teams spend about $45,635 on recruiting and the women’s teams spend $22,417. Some part of that money pays for recruits to visit Wheaton’s campus and other parts of it pay for coaches’ travel to watch recruits. Surprisingly, however, the majority of the recruiting money goes to an unexpected source on campus.
“The biggest single recruiting expense is what we pay to Bon Appetit for meals for recruits,” Stukes explained. “When recruits are here, we want them to eat well, so we have to pay for that.”
Stukes went on to say that currently, it is more competitive to recruit male athletes than female athletes, which is why the recruiting budget for men is twice the amount for women. In the past few years, however, that gap has been closed dramatically as the intensity of female recruiting increases.
Overall, Stukes estimated that Wheaton’s athletic department uses about 2.5 to 2.5 percent of the institutional budget for the college. He compared that to an estimated 3.3 to 3.5 percent of institutional budget that other colleges Wheaton’s size spend on average.
Stukes explained that Wheaton places an importance on Thunder athletics and said, “We’re committed to doing things really well for the athletes and we’re well-funded for what we do.”