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Tennessee Vols athletic budget is seventh in SEC: Here’s why that’s not a problem

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The Tennessee Vols may not be quite ready to be a football powerhouse. If not, money isn’t the problem.

Financial budgets can tell plenty about how a football program is performing. No, not all of an athletic department’s budget is spend on football, but that is certainly the case among most Power Five schools, especially those in the SEC. So where do the Vols rank?

Tennessee’s athletic department spending is seventh best in the newly expanded SEC, according to financial statistics provided by Tony Altimore and as cited by Saturday Down South. The Tennessee Vols’ budget is $191-million, which sounds like a lot until you compare it to Texas’ $232-million, which is tops in the SEC.

UT’s athletic budget also falls short of Oklahoma, who spent $212-million during the 2023-24 fiscal year. Yes, that’s correct. The two newest schools to be included in the SEC are two of the top four athletic budgets. Oklahoma comes in at fourth, just behind Alabama at $212-million and LSU at $199-million. Texas A&M and Auburn fell just behind at $195-million and $193-million those schools, respectively.

So what does all this mean for Tennessee Vols athletic director Danny White? Can he and Tennessee still be champions even though they’re not spending as much as six other schools in the SEC? No question.

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Georgia has done pretty well in football lately, with two national championship trophies on display. The Bulldogs actually had a smaller athletic budget than Tennessee. UGA came in eighth at $186-million. In fact, all of Tennessee’s rivals, other than Alabama, have a smaller athletic budget than the Vols, but nowadays, that’s just part of the equation.

There would be no way of knowing, but I’d be interested to see where the Vols would rank in combined budget and NIL spending. It’s not out of the question that combining the two figures could come close to a quarter of a billion dollars. Let’s type that out slowly so I can check myself: athletic department spending, along with NIL, could soon approach $250 million if it hasn’t surpassed it already. Wow.

It’s worth noting that two of the top three athletic budgets in the newly formed SEC have recent national championships on the record. LSU and Alabama both have multiple titles that surely boosted their worth.

It may be a bit sobering to see that Tennessee’s budget trails six other athletic departments, but it shouldn’t be. The Vols are well within striking distance in terms of spending power. They’re not going to lose a coach simply because they got outbid. The same could be said for NIL athletes, who have found quite fruitful homes at Tennessee.

Although their athletic budget may be a bit behind, the Tennessee Vols have made due with affordable hires, including football coach Josh Heupel. White has shown he’s pretty deft at hiring coaches. The Vols’ athletic department hasn’t been as healthy as it is now since the 1990’s. There isn’t a school that can out-muscle the Vols financially and, with a title or two, Tennessee may be able to shove a few SEC underlings around in the near future – if they haven’t been already.

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