Kansas State is smiling all the way to the bank

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According to an ESPN report, only 19 athletic departments in the nation made money this past year. Try to guess the top five, and you’d probably hit on most of them. Big-time athletics are paying off for Texas, LSU, Alabama and Florida. None of those traditional powerhouses is leading the pack, however. You may be surprised to hear which agricultural-based institution of higher learning is bringing home the cheddar.

With $23 million in net income, the Kansas State Wildcats are tops in growing the green.

The Kansas City Star broke down some of the school’s largest sources of income:

The Wildcats are in the middle of two major fundraising campaigns. With construction on a new basketball practice facility nearing completion and construction on an expanded football press box gearing up, K-State received $26.5 million in donations. Some of those pledges will be made over multiple years, but were listed as fully paid one-time donations on the fiscal report.

According to the report, K-State’s other biggest sources of income came from tickets sales, media rights and the Big 12 Conference. The Wildcats sold $14.4 million in tickets, brought in $13.7 million from the conference, $3.59 million in media rights and $3.3 million in student fees.

Its biggest expenses were $9.2 million on coaches, $3.2 million in travel, $2.17 million in marketing and $914,411 in recruiting.

K-State athletic communications director Kenny Lannou was honest about the accounting, telling the Star “We had a great year, but we didn’t put $23 million in the bank. We’re probably in the neighborhood of a $3-$4 million cash surplus.  If a guy comes in says he is going to donate $5 million over five years, some schools will count that $1 million at a time over five years. The way our accounting shop does it, they report that $5 million all in the first year.”

However you count it, K-State is doing something right.