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Spending wars and the Big Ten

What the conference does and doesn't spend on its students, and how that compares across the country.

Hint: the nerds lost.
Hint: the nerds lost.
Leon Halip

Yesterday, Deadspin dropped quite the bomb.

No, not that one. The other one, the one about how much on average athletic conferences spend on student athletes vs. non student athletes.

There is always a lot of talking around the general priorities of different conferences when it comes to athletics and academics; most of it in the, "we're better than you because of X," form that is followed by a quick, "nuh uh," retort (Or something. This is the internet after all).

The vast majority of this chest pounding seems to go between the moral hubris of Big Ten fans and the "scoreboard" chanting SEC supporters. The Big Ten fans claim that the SEC doesn't care about its athletes because of things like over-signing (which is great until you realize that only half of the SEC really does it, and only two programs do it effectively), to which SEC fans point out how irrelevant the Big Ten has been on a national scale for the last decade.

All of this isn't to stake out some position in the war between the two, but rather to lay it out plainly: these two loose collectives of university athletic programs have some differing priorities on a school by school level, and that informs the worldview of the populace that seems inclined to go on the internet and talk shit.

Deadspin's bomb (the relevant, real world, on the field and in the coffers one) will no doubt add fuel to the fire after we all quit making up jokes about Manti Te'o.

The SEC spends money. A lot of it. And in a runaway fashion from everyone else when it comes to spending on student athletes on average. That would be an average of 163,931 dollars per athlete. Only the Big XII is relatively close, and that is despite being over 30,000 dollars short of that mark with 131,286 spent on average per athlete. The Big Ten places third with 116,667 spent on average. This is still enough to beat out the FBS average (91,936) by nearly 25,000 dollars. These numbers were all compiled thanks to the Delta Cost Project at the American Institute for Research (and for the record, these numbers all reflect spending in 2010, the last year data was fully and readily available).

So the SEC cares about sports (cough, football). What is the Big Ten to do? Either start spending more or largely resign itself to fighting for second place with the Big XII and Pac-12.

One nice stat to keep in mind: the Big Ten far outpaces everyone else in spending on students. Regular old, class attending, tuition paying, not 300-lbs benching students. The Big Ten spends an average of 19,225 dollars on each student. The FBS average is 13,628. Only the Big East (17,620) is within 2000 dollars of the Big Ten. The SEC? Below the FBS average with 13,390 (for you math majors out there, that is 1/12th of what the SEC spends on its athletes.

I'm sure once we run out of Manti Te'o jokes, these numbers will help usher in a new wave of SEC-Big Ten grudge match jokes.

If academic spending is any indication, I'd bet the Big Ten's jokes will be better. However, considering the results on the field, the SEC's jokes will probably still make us all cry.