COLUMBIA - Ray Tanner remembers the less glamorous times at South Carolina.
Not long ago, the athletics department struggled to do more with less, stretching resources as far as they could go simply to compete. Forget keeping up with the Joneses. Back then, South Carolina tried not to scrape rock bottom.
The current reality of South Carolina's finances won't blow anyone away, not in the lucrative world of college athletics. Still, Tanner said his athletics department has come a long way.
"It's been very special," South Carolina's athletics director said Thursday. "I've watched facilities across the board come out of the ground. I've watched our competitiveness increase at a high level. I certainly value great coaching - which we have here - and the recruitment of wonderful student athletes and a great university.
"It takes resources to be able to compete at the highest level."
Finally, resources are something South Carolina has at its disposal.
The athletics department reported a record $90,484,422 in revenue for the 2012-13 fiscal year, the 25th-highest total among Division I public universities but 10th among SEC peers, according to USA TODAY Sports. The revenue is a small bump above the $87,608,352 from the previous year. Since 2005, revenue has almost doubled.
Clemson checked in as the No. 41 highest-grossing athletic department among Division I public universities for the 2012-13 fiscal year with a $69,061,398 revenue. Clemson's expenses were 39th-highest in the country, while South Carolina's expenses were No. 22.
The 2012-13 fiscal year is the most recent financial report available. Tanner said he expects to have a 2013-14 financial report ready in August. The athletics director expects a three- to four-percent revenue increase when the current fiscal year ends.
"I think it's extremely exciting for the university of South Carolina and the athletics department that over the years we've continued to climb in the rankings among revenues generated by athletics department, and certainly we hope that we can continue to go north because the challenges in the SEC and nationally are immense," Tanner said. "It's a good number, but we hope we can continue to move in a positive direction."
Tanner said a 2014-15 athletics budget is awaiting university approval, which should happen in the "very near future." He and chief financial officer Jeff Tallant submitted the upcoming year's budget to university president Harris Pastides a couple weeks ago.
South Carolina's net profit has seen a less dramatic change. While its revenue increased, so did spending. The department reported a record $89,097,412 in expenses during the 2012-13 year, more than a $4 million increase from 2011-12, according to USA TODAY Sports.
Still, South Carolina's athletics department lost more than $2.6 million in 2005. Its 2012-13 budget represented the seventh straight year it turned a profit.
South Carolina spent $31,918,772 on coaching and staff salaries in 2012-13, its highest individual expense. Meanwhile, Clemson spent $27.4 million on coaching and staff salaries, a figure that will continue to rise with ongoing contract extensions for Dabo Swinney and other notable coaches in the athletic department.
Tanner said it's important to him to heavily invest in people.
"You invest in coaches, you invest in student athletes, and you invest in resources," Tanner said. "I love this university. I've been here for 18 years now, and we're not a place that people come and go. We are the final destination, and I think that it's very important that we invest in the caliber of coaches that have put their roots down here.
"We have some absolutely wonderful coaches. I know that there are changes along the way, but I feel strongly that we have a group of coaches that have been here and will be here for a long time."
South Carolina received $2,537,697 in total subsidy, which is comprised from the sum of students fees, direct and indirect institutional support and state money. Total subsidy accounted for 2.8 percent of South Carolina's revenue in 2012-13. Without it, the university would not have seen a profit.
While South Carolina saw a significant gain in revenue, so did other schools.
Texas led the nation with $165,691,486 revenue in 2012-13. It had more than a $14 million gap on second-place Wisconsin. The Longhorns also spent more money than anyone else - though by a much smaller margin - with $146,807,585 in expenses. Wisconsin's expenses were $146,659,187.
Alabama led the SEC and was third nationally, with $143,776,550 in revenue. The richest conference in college sports comprised four of the top 10 revenue-generating schools. Five SEC schools reported more than $100 million in revenue. All 14 SEC schools' revenue for 2012-13 is listed below.
Clemson's 2012-13 revenue ranked sixth in the ACC, which is now led by new conference member Louisville (18th nationally), Florida State, Virginia, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Tanner said it's difficult to credit one factor for South Carolina's growing financial success, but it's clear the athletics department has found the right combination.
"So many great coaches that I think that's important to where we are today, but they needed a fan base, and they needed the donor support to help us create opportunities and facilities and resources to be able to recruit at a very high level," Tanner said. "So, when you combine a group of coaches that we have with a fan base and donors that are committed to helping us compete at a very high level, that's certainly a recipe for success."
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