Money in Manhattan Basketball

A somber men’s basketball team walked off the court at the MassMutual Center last year as the Iona Gaels celebrated their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship since 2006.

A second place finish was not the outcome the Jaspers had been hoping for on the court, but in the checkbook, the second place finish was financially efficient.

Manhattan College spent roughly $1.7 million on men’s basketball last year, according to reports filed with the U.S. Department of Education. The records show that figure was the sixth highest expenditure on men’s basketball of 10 teams in the MAAC.

The school spent roughly $1.3 million on its women’s basketball team, according to the same reports. The records show that figure was the eighth highest expenditure on women’s basketball of 10 teams in the MAAC.

Expenses on the report include athletically related student aid, recruiting expenses, equipment, operating expenses, salaries and benefits, supplies, travel, and any other expenses attributable to intercollegiate activities from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, which is the most recent period in which all NCAA schools reported data.

Manhattan College President Brennan O’Donnell said sports play an essential role in building character, but basketball has a special role.

“We’re terrific in baseball, too, and track and field historically, and we have been at times very successful at other sports, and we value all those sports,” O’Donnell said.  “But in terms of the importance of making sure that we have a competitive team out there, it’s just basketball is much more visible.”

The college has significantly increased the amount it spends on its basketball program during the past 10 years, as well as the percent of its overall spending on all sports, but the increases only allow the school to stay current with increases in the rest of the MAAC schools.

The Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act requires all colleges and universities to file an annual pecuniary report that details athletic participation, staffing and expenses for its men’s and women’s teams. Data from those reports available at offers a baseline picture of the relationship between the money Manhattan College spends on basketball, its preeminent sports program, and the other MAAC schools spend of the same sport.

Expectations are high for the 2013-2014 men’s team (6-2 MAAC, 13-4) which is ranked seventh in the Mid Major’s poll of teams in 22 conferences outside the major six conferences. The Jaspers are off to their best start since 2001-2002 and are in first place in the MAAC.

The Lady Jaspers are (3-4 MAAC, 4-12) sixth in the MAAC.

The men’s team has been to the NCAA Tournament six times, most recently in 2004. The women’s team has been four times, most recently in 2003. Talk about a possible return to the NCAA Tournament for the men’s team began last fall when USA Today ranked the Jaspers 59th in the country (64 teams make NCAA Tournament).

Robert Byrnes, the athletic director at Manhattan College, said that the high level of funding for basketball allows the school to be seen in a positive light on a national stage.

“Men’s and women’s basketball, because of television primarily, presents opportunities for your name to get out in public, and so therefore to get that publicity, there is a cost,” Byrnes said.

Men’s basketball spent more money than any team – men’s or women’s – at Manhattan College. Women’s basketball is second.  The $1.7 million spent last year for men’s basketball was 22 percent of the $7.9 million the school spent on all men’s and women’s teams. The $1.3 million it spent on women’s basketball was 17 percent of the same total. Together, men’s and women’s basketball is 39 percent of what the school spends on all 19 Division I sports programs combined.

One thing that makes college sports so gripping is the “underdog” factor, the notion that on any given day a small school can trounce a larger school, or better funded opponent.

When Luis Flores – the Jasper’s all-time leading scorer – carried the men’s basketball team to a MAAC Championship in 2004, the team had expenses of roughly $1 million. That total was just the sixth highest total in MAAC, and just 17 percent of all 19 sports.

The 12th seeded Jaspers upset David Lee – now a member of the Golden State Warriors – and the fourth seeded Florida Gators 75-60 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that year. The Gators had expenses of $5.1 million at the time.

“I personally believe money plays if not everything, all of it. It has everything to do with how teams develop and grow…” Flores said. “When I went to Rutgers, their intermural facility was three times bigger than Manhattan College’s gym.”

Manhattan College spent nearly a half-million more on men’s basketball last season than on women’s basketball, according to the Department of Education. Every school in the MAAC spent more on its men’s basketball program than its women’s program, however, the imbalance varied.

The largest disparity was at Sienna, where the $2.6 million spent on men’s basketball was 64 percent of basketball expenditures. The smallest disparity was at Rider, where the $1.5 million spent on the men’s team was slightly more than 50 percent.

Manhattan College had a larger disparity than most MAAC schools. The $1.7 million spent on the men’s team was 57 percent of basketball expenditures. Only three schools (Sienna, Fairfield, Loyola) had a larger disparity. Six MAAC schools funded their women’s program closer to the level of the men’s than Manhattan did.

“It’s something that everyone needs to be – and continue to be – vigilant on,” Jason Rich, the assistant athletic director for communications at Siena College, said. “It’s not anything you can let slack off.”

The women’s basketball expenses increased every year since 2003. Men’s basketball has increased at a greater rate, especially a $465,950 increase from 2009 to 2010. The men’s expenses have only decreased from year to year twice since 2003.

The $1.8 million the men’s team spent in 2010-2011 was the most since 2003, and the total ranked them third highest in the MAAC that season. The total went to no avail when Manhattan finished 3-15 in MAAC play, tying them with Marist for last place in the conference. Coach Barry Rohrssen was fired at the end of the season.

The Lady Jaspers have placed either seventh, eighth or ninth in expenses out of 10 teams in the MAAC every year since 2003. Their highest total was $1.3 million spent last season, and they finished ninth in the MAAC regular season standings with a conference record of 4-14.

John Olenowski, the coach of the women’s basketball team, said he recruits most of his players in the tri-state area. The New York City location is a selling point for the recruits, and the money to get those players has not been a concern.

“I do believe that Manhattan is more than fair with the amount of money they spend on recruiting,” Olenowski said. “I don’t believe that’s an issue at all.”

Men’s Basketball Expenses                       MAAC Standings

Siena:                                                $2,668,068 Niagara                13-5
Fairfield:                                           $2,230,121 Rider                    12-6
Loyola (Md.):                                   $2,027,023 Loyola (Md.)        12-6
Iona:                                                 $1,942,825 Iona                      11-7
Marist:                                              $1,757,998 Canisius               11-7
Manhattan:                                     $1,746,018 Manhattan            9-9
Canisius:                                           $1,681,925 Fairfield                 9-9
Rider:                                                $1,533,959 Marist                   6-12
Niagara                                             $1,529,288 Siena                    4-14
Saint Peter’s:                                    $1,094,528 Saint Peter’s         3-15
*Iona defeated Manhattan in championship
Women’s Basketball Expenses MAAC Standings
Iona:                                                 $1,584,679 Marist                   18-0
Fairfield:                                           $1,578,701 Iona                      13-5
Marist:                                              $1,571,841 Fairfield                11-7
Loyola (Md.):                                   $1,560,220 Rider                     10-8
Rider:                                                $1,487,241 Niagara                   9-9
Siena:                                                $1,485,806 Siena                     8-10
Canisius:                                           $1,420,274 Canisius                8-10
Manhattan:                                     $1,326,219 Loyola (Md.)        7-11
Niagara:                                            $1,204,857 Manhattan          4-14
Saint Peter’s:                                       $823,423 Saint Peter’s         2-16
*Marist defeated Iona in championship