Published College Sports Financial Data Unreliable

The financial figures Arkansas Business used for its Jan. 23 cover story "10 College Sports Programs Report Profit" should not be considered accurate.

In fact, none of the state's public colleges had a net income in the 2004-05 school year, although the University of Arkansas would have turned a profit if it had not transferred more than $5 million to other university accounts.

In preparing the original story, Arkansas Business relied on the unaudited financial figures the colleges and universities filed with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. But Arkansas Business has since learned that those numbers cannot be trusted for an accurate financial picture of the school's athletic department.

"The purpose of this data isn't to show that an athletic program is making or losing money," said David Bergeron, director of policy and budget development in the Office of Postsecondary Education. "It's to show the prospective student athlete about how much money is involved in this program" and to allow students to make rough comparisons between schools.

Bergeron said the DOE didn't even question schools who report the exact same amount of revenue as expenses.

"That may be a very well managed athletic department," Bergeron said.

He said it would only raise concerns if the numbers showed a huge net income or a loss.

Since Arkansas Business published the report two colleges, the University of Central Arkansas at Conway and Henderson State University at Arkadelphia, said they made errors in reporting the numbers to the U.S. Department of Education. (Harding University at Searcy also had made an error in its report, but the school caught it before the list was published.)

When the Office of Postsecondary numbers were clearly suspect, such as the case where the revenues and expenditures matched to the dollar for every category such as football and basketball, Arkansas Business used the revenue figures the public schools provided to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education but kept the expense figure from the Office of Postsecondary Education.

A more effective method would have been to use both the expense and revenue figures from the ADHE for the public schools and left private schools off of the list.

"You have to use our reports because our reports are submitted by financial officers," said Stanley Wil-liams, senior associate director for finance at the state Department of Higher Education. "What the (federal) folks get is reports by institutional research officers who are not financial officers."

Williams said with the ADHE report, "there is no chance of it not being right."

New List

Arkansas Business has reprinted on this page the financial figures the schools filed with the ADHE. For this report, Arkansas Business did not include transfers from the school's unrestricted educational and general fund or transfers from its other auxiliary profits, such as the bookstore or housing.

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville was the only school that didn't transfer money from its unrestricted education and general fund. It also didn't use student athletic fees to support its sports department. The UA did, though, transfer $500,000 from other auxiliary profits to support the program.

• Click here the college sports financial reports.