College football is king in the state of Alabama. The state is home to five FBS football programs, highlighted by Alabama and Auburn and their combined string of four straight national championships in recent years. Three other FCS programs also call Alabama home. As popular as football is, it seems the schools in the football-crazed state are starting to cut back on athletic funding and place a little more emphasis on education.
As reported by AL.com, in 2012, academic funding increased over 2011 academic spending at six of the eight FBS or FCS programs in Alabama. By contrast, athletic spending dipped at four of the eight schools. Alabama lowered its academic spending by two percent while increasing the athletic funding by three percent. Auburn increased academic funding by three percent while reducing athletic spending by five percent. It might be noted Alabama played a neutral site game in Arlington, Texas to open the 2012 season against Michigan in a game that required some extra funding and the Crimson Tide went on to play in the BCS Championship Game as well. Also, Auburn still spent more on athletics in 2012 according to the report, while Alabama spent more money per student on academics.
South Alabama prepared for a move from the FCS to the FBS by budgeting for a 21 percent increase in athletic spending between 2011 and 2012. The school reduced academic spending by just one percent during that time span. No school spent more per student on academics in the state than UAB, nearly doubling the total spent per student than Auburn. UAB increased academic spending by nine percent while remaining consistent with athletic spending.
FCS Alabama State was the only school reported to increase academic and athletic spending between 2011 and 2012, increasing spending by 12 percent in each category. Alabama A&M increased academic spending by 34 percent while reducing athletic spending by nine percent.
Now, does this mean Alabama and Auburn will not be able to keep up with other college football powers in future years? Not likely. While the percentages may be dipping, you can see there is still a heavy emphasis on athletics spending. To compete at a high level the way Alabama and Auburn do in the SEC, financing the best possible staff and amenities is a necessity. The thought of spending an exorbitant sum on athletics instead of academics may not sit well with some, but it is important to also remember that the athletics budgets can often turn a profit for schools and can be self-sustaining. If the athletics department succeeds, there is a positive effect on the academic side of the equation as well if a school handles the finances well.