Winning By Numbers

How Sac State Cashes In on Sports

By R.E. Graswich
January 2019

To see the biggest collection of athletes in Sacramento, the place to visit is 6000 J St. That would be Sacramento State University, whose name is not exactly synonymous with championship trophies. No matter, dear old Sac State deserves some cheers.

On any given day, there are about 470 varsity athletes enrolled at Sac State. They attend classes, train hard, wear the Hornet colors and play their best. Most have no hope of earning a living as professional athletes. They play because sports help pay for their education. And they love competition. Many of them even graduate—about 75 percent.

It’s worth noting that most of Sac State’s 470 athletes are not competing in high-visibility games. They are not football or basketball players. The football team carries 95 players. Men’s basketball has 14. That leaves about 361 who compete in rowing, tennis, golf, volleyball, track, gymnastics, soccer, softball and baseball.

When it comes to athletic inclusion, Sac State is an equal-opportunity campus. The school has more women varsity athletes than men, 248 to 220, at last official count. This makes sense because there are about 3,100 more women than men enrolled fulltime at Sac State.

 

“Women are a major part of our athletics program,” says Brian Berger, assistant athletic director. “They have been some of our most successful teams over the years, with championships in golf and volleyball.”

Some things aren’t equal, especially coaching pay and opportunity. In 2017, the people who coached Sac State men’s teams had average salaries of $125,370, against $69,727 for head coaches of women’s teams.

Salary data require deeper consideration. Eight men were head coaches of women’s teams at Sac State. Only two women ran women’s teams (no women coached men’s teams). Every women’s team had one or two female assistant coaches. Improving coaching opportunities and the accompanying pay for women should be a priority at 6000 J St.

Football is the big “revenue” sport at Sac State because it sells more tickets and attracts more dollars with advertising and sponsorships. Each year, football brings in about $3.8 million, far more than any other team. But football doesn’t make money. It covers its expenses.

Sac State women athletes are winners when it comes to revenue. They don’t sell as many tickets as football or men’s basketball, but they attract dollars through student fees and state funds. (Sac State students voted years ago to tax themselves extra for sports.)

Overall, women athletes account for about $6.8 million in revenue for the Hornet athletics department. Men contribute about $8.3 million, including football. Those numbers allow athletics to maintain a positive balance of about $600,000 per year.

These numbers are from a website called ope.ed.gov. It’s run by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education, and covers all universities.

UC Davis has statistics similar to Sac State, but tends to dominate the Hornets in sports. Which is a good reminder: In sports and life, data only tells part of the story.

R.E. Graswich can be reached at reg@graswich.com.   

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