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Penn State football-specific contributions quadruple, but contributions to athletics plummet

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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Penn State fans quadrupled contributions specific to the football program last year, during the program's toughest time, Onward State said.

But, according to Penn State's annual financial report to the NCAA that was cited by Onward State, overall contributions dipped about $8.8 million, a little more than a 25 percent drop. That fueled a $7.9 million drop in revenue for the athletic department.

The increase in contributions to the football program make sense, given the community's show of support for the team after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The overall drop is more difficult to decipher.

Penn State had $2.1 million in football-specific contributions in 2010-11, and that figure was $9.7 million in 2011-12, according to the report. Ticket sales fell from $34.2 million to $33.4 million, a small drop that could be explained by the implementation of an unpopular ticket program, as Onward State points out. The Sandusky scandal certainly hurt Penn State financially, but not in contributions to football or football ticket sales.

However, it's hard to believe that the significant drop in donations as the scandal was making news was just a coincidence. Onward State said overall athletic department contributions went from $34.3 million to $25.6 million, a big and concerning drop for an athletic department that prides itself on being self sustaining. Perhaps those who wanted to keep giving to the school changed their designation to contribute specifically to football (contributions not specified to one team are considered athletic department donations) and there were obviously other donors that didn't want to donate in 2011-12, although it is impossible to know what percentage of that drop was fueled by the scandal.

(UPDATE: Penn State set the record straight. According to Associated Press, about 90 percent of that loss in revenue was "due to a loss of one-time fees related to football club seat and suite renewals that were not budgeted for in 2012. That obviously makes the contributions to football that much more impressive, knowing they weren't simply reclassified by donors.)

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