It shouldn’t come as a surprise that COVID-19 wreaked havoc on college athletics finances during the summer and fall of 2020.

Football seasons were delayed and in many cases shortened, to say nothing of the many other sports that lost games and seasons.

Nearly two years later, there is now a clear understanding of exactly what impact the pandemic had on the Power Five conferences financially.

USA Today acquired the returns for the 2021 fiscal year from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 — the SEC released its return in February — and the results were eye-opening.

Per USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz, only two conferences — the SEC and ACC — showed revenue increases.

The SEC showed total revenue of just over $833 million, a $105 million increase over what the conference reported for 2020 (fiscal year).

The ACC improved by nearly $82 million, nearing $578 million in total.

Not coincidentally, both the SEC and ACC played full football seasons, or close to it (the ACC played 11 regular season games, folding Notre Dame into the conference as a full member for only the 2020 season).

The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 — all of which delayed their 2020 football seasons and subsequently played fewer games — saw significant revenue decreases.

The Big Ten saw revenue drop by $53 million, while the Big 12 suffered an $89 million drop and Pac-12 suffered a jaw-dropping drop of $190 million.

How much did conferences pay out to individual schools?

  • Understandably, the SEC paid out the most to its members, with each school receiving an average of $54.6 million, plus an additional $23.3 million advance on future conference distributions.
  • Payments in the ACC ranged from $35 million to $38.1 million. Per Berkowitz, the ACC declined to comment on if Notre Dame was compensated as a full member or not (in 2020 Notre Dame received $10.8 million from the conference as a part-time member).
  • The Big 12 paid out between $34.7 million and $36.5 million to its member schools. Per Berkowitz, the conference ran an operating deficit for the year of just less than $16 million but said it is on track to stay on budget for the 2022 fiscal year.
  • Payments in the Big Ten were second only to the SEC, ranging from $43.1 million to $49.1 million. Per Berkowitz, the conference was helped as Maryland and Rutgers began to repay loans they had received while receiving smaller annual shares, combining to return $29 million to the conference (they still owe $145 million, most of which is due from Maryland).
  • As for the Pac-12, schools’ payouts were $19.8 million in 2021, a drop of $33.6 million. Per Berkowitz and according to the Pac-12, only one of 35 football games scheduled for the conference-owned Pac-12 Networks was played in 2020. As a result, the networks ended up with a $14 million operating deficit after showing a $36 million surplus the prior fiscal year.