As a private institution, specifics about Elon University’s athletic budget aren’t public; However, the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act — passed in 1994 — requires universities and colleges to make gender equity information about their athletic programs available. This is to give prospective students a chance to judge a school’s ability to have equitable opportunities for both its male and female student-athletes. 

As a result of this, it is possible to analyze Elon’s athletic budget from a broad perspective. According to Elon professor of sport management Alex Traugutt, Elon’s athletic budget is in a good place right now due to their spending and return on investment. 

“Spending and our ROI seems to be on par with what other institutions at this kind of level do. There isn't anything that when I look at it, I think to myself, ‘Boy, we're doing something wrong here,’’’ Traugutt said. 

According to the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis, Elon’s athletic finances are on par with its Coastal Athletic Association counterparts. It is in the middle of the pack for most categories. Traugutt said this is because Elon’s organizational spending philosophy values academics above all else. 

“I would say we don't spend toward the bottom because we have the kind of resources to spend in the middle, and I think we don't spend towards the top because we choose to allocate our resources kind of differently,” Traugutt said.

According to University spokesperson Owen Covington, Elon makes sure to benchmark with other CAA institutions to understand market needs.

The numbers

According to the 2021-22 Equity in Athletics Data Analysis report, Elon athletics is made up of 503 participants receiving $6,070,544 in student aid. 

In terms of disparity between Elon’s men’s and women’s sports, there are some spots that lack a level of equity. The average salary for men’s sports head coaches is $170, 209, opposed to the average salary of $89,072 for women’s sports head coaches. Additionally, recruiting expenses are significantly higher for men’s sports with $223,927, while women’s sports recruiting expenses are $155,638.

But analyzing the disparity between the total expenses of all men’s sports and women’s sports can be a bit misleading, according to Traugutt. 

The total expenses for all men’s sports is $11,753,345, whereas women’s sports received around $3 million less in spending with $8,291,015 in total expenses. But Traugautt said that if football — who’s total expenses comes to $5,936,512 — is removed from the equation, it would be closer. The women’s basketball team trails the men’s team by less than $1 million in total expenses, and women’s sports had about $3 million more in total combined expenses of all non-football and basketball sports. 

It is important to note that there are three more non-football and basketball women’s sports at Elon.

“I think football is what's driving that kind of delta between the men and women. I don't think we're out of bounds here. I think we're right on par, and I think it's great to see that we do spend in a comparable way,” Traugutt said. 

In terms of the grand total expenses, Elon spent $30,690,272 on Elon athletic teams during the 2021-22 season.

Operating expenses also help illustrate how money is allocated within the athletic department. According to the Office of Postsecondary Education, operating expenses are expenses an institution incurs attributable to intercollegiate athletic contests. These “game-day expenses” include lodging, meals, transportation, uniforms and equipment. 

The operating expenses within men’s sports present somewhat of a disparity between allocation. The game-day expenses for men’s basketball and football are $496,726 and $603,296, respectively. But, the operating expenses for all other men’s sports combined is $576,052. That means that the operating expenses for football and basketball makes up for over 64% of the total operating expenses for men’s sports. 

Traugutt believes that this difference in spending is in part due to the nature of the basketball and football programs, which require more funding to operate. 

“For basketball it’s the nature of the game. The travel costs are more for a basketball team as a function of them playing more games,” Traugutt said. 

Another imbalance in operating expenses helps illustrate how important basketball is to the women’s side of Elon’s athletic department. Women’s basketball had an operating expense of $335,704 out of a $1,126,756 total for all sports, resulting in the basketball team making up for almost a third of the operating expenses for all women’s sports.

Elon’s athletic department declined Elon News Network’s request for an interview, but provided an email statement.

“Note that information reported to EADA is reported in the specific format that EADA requires, and thus is not necessarily a direct reflection of actual budgeted dollars or expenses at Elon,” athletics wrote.

Traugutt also said there is a possibility that these numbers may not directly represent the athletic budget of Elon as a result of Elon being a private institution.  

“The EADA numbers have been found to not always be accurate,” Traugutt said. “We can do some kind of accounting jujitsu here, but when you're analyzing private schools, we know that we may not know the exact same things if we were looking at public schools because the reporting mechanisms are going to be different.” 

The future

How Elon allocates its financial resources in the athletic department could change significantly in the years to come. Traugutt believes that increased funding will likely go to some of the fastest growing sports. 

“I could see us investing more in the volleyball program to capitalize on the growth of the sport and the same thing for softball,” Traugutt said. “I think we've got a great facility here. I think that there's more ways in which we could potentially attract young people to come to our campus to play softball.” 

Traugutt also said he believes that new leadership will help foster this change in funding. 

Elon Athletic Director Jennifer Strawley is in the midst of her inaugural year at Elon after serving as the senior deputy director of athletics at the University of Miami.​​​​​​ Traugutt believes that a new direction under her leadership could impact the athletic budget and its allocation. 

“I think that the way in which money is raised and revenue is brought in and then how the expenses are incurred could change,” Traugutt said. 

Although Elon doesn’t have the resources of a school like Miami, Traugutt said that her experience with a big Division I school could provide her with the opportunity to impart a scaled down version of that. 

In the future, Elon plans to value their student athletes in their budgeting — according to Covington.

“Elon is also focused on the holistic student-athlete experience, and additional investments in nutrition, mental health and sport performance continue to be areas of focus,” Covington wrote in a statement to Elon News Network.

Moving into the future, Traugutt said he doesn’t see any glaring issues in the numbers of the athletic budget, but he believes Elon needs to consider what it’s going to take to get the next class of recruits to come compete for Elon.

Traugutt acknowledges Elon isn’t in the position to leave the CAA for a better conference, but he said that Elon needs to find a niche that attracts top talent — whether that is shiny uniforms, new buildings or compensation packages. 

“It's a matter of how we capitalize our position and ensure that athletes want to come to our institution to play. How do we elevate our status, how do we move upward?” Traugutt said.

Traugutt said the future of Elon’s athletic programs depends on recruiting. 

“Long term, where we go is dependent on how we can recruit the next generation of athletes, and what type of resources we provide to get them here, because we can't keep doing what we're doing. We have to find what brings young people to our institution,” Traugutt said.