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December 7, 2010 - Southeastern Conference surpasses $1 billion in athletics revenue

Revenues from the members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) totaled more than $1 billion in 2009-10, making the college athletic conference the first to cross the $1 billion mark, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle considered data from the US Department of Education to total the revenue of the athletic departments at its 12 member institutions at $1,006,798,094; about an 11-percent increase from the previous year and a nearly 77-percent bump from six years ago.

The SEC's biggest increase was from the University of Alabama, where revenues increased 24 percent in 2009-10, to $129.3-million. Alabama surpassed both Ohio State University and the University of Florida as the second highest revenue-producing programs in all of college sports. The University of Texas leads all institutions with $143.6-million in athletics revenue.

The SEC's figure represents the outcome of an enviable financial equation: tremendous support in the South for football and a significant television contract.   The SEC signed a a 15-year deal with CBS and ESPN worth $3-billion, and the Big Ten conference through the creation of its TV network, reportedly worth $2.8-billion over 25 years. According to the Chronicle, last year, the Big Ten expected to pay out around $29-million to its members, in addition to what its other TV contracts earn. The network's annual distributions are expected to increase each year.  With help from its own thriving television network, the Big Ten Conference pulled in $905.2-million last year, up more than 50 percent from six years ago.

In 2003, the SEC and the Big Ten, along with the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 12, and Pacific-10 conferences, all earned within $200-million or so of each other. The Big Ten led all conferences with $598-million in annual revenue; the Pac-10 posted $384-million that year. But over the next six years, the SEC caught up with the Big Ten, overtaking it in total earnings in 2006-7. In the meantime, other gaps persisted: for instance, the Pacific-10's revenues grew by nearly 65 percent during that period. But its $632-million last year was still far less than the SEC's billion.

To view a chart of the increase in revenues of all the major college athletics conferences, link here.