Athletic departments have budgets for each team. Included within the athletic department master budget includes an athletic training budget. However, unlike sports programs, the athletic training budget goes not towards its own needs, but the needs of the sports teams. The size of the athletic training budget is proportional to the number of sports and the number of athletes’ athletic trainers’ service. For example, schools with football require more athletic training supplies, time, and people than schools without. The only research conducted that compared the size of the financial resources between athletic training budgets comes from 1992. The research indicated that the range of money available for the care of athletics at the college and high school ranged from $926 to $96. Since then the education of athletic training has changed both athletic training programs and their budgets. New research into the similarities and differences between athletic training budgets is a must.


Like any other program in athletics the athletic training budget takes up a significant portion of the athletic department budget. However, unlike sports programs, the athletic training budget goes not towards its own needs, but the needs of the sports teams. Every school with athletic trainers and an athletic training budget must develop a budget based on the needs of the sports teams. For example, schools with football require more athletic training supplies, time, and people than schools without. More popular athletic departments have larger budgets to meet the needs of their athletic teams. The assumption is that athletic training budgets change to meet the demands of the teams of whom they cover. The variables include the size of the school, number of athletes, division of athletics, gender of athletes, and number of athletic trainers. The question that arises is: do schools with these comparable variables have comparable budgets?


A budget is a plan for the coordination of resources and expenditures (Horine, 1991). It is also a tool for estimating receipts and disbursement over a period of time (Mayo, 1978). Fried (2008) defines a budget as a road map that shows a business where it is going to spend its money. In regards to athletic training, Dr. Richard Ray (2000) defined a budget as a qualitative expression of the athletic trainers’ management plan. Dr. Ray explains that a budget interrelates with inventory control and purchasing to create a financial planning network for an athletic training program.

In his book ‘Management Strategies in Athletic Training’ (2000), Dr. Ray explains several examples of budgets available for athletic training programs. The first budget Dr. Ray lists is the incremental or spending ceiling budget (Wildavsky, 1975). This budget requires athletic trainers to justify expenditures that exceed the previous year’s budget. The second is the spending reduction model. The spending reduction model decreases a budget to preserve institutions funds. Institutions in financial crisis use this budget more often whereas academic programs rarely use it. The third budget is the zero-based budget. In the zero-based budget every expense must be justified without reference to previous spending patterns. This budget is tedious and requires micromanagement of the athletic administration. Athletic trainers rarely rely upon this budget because of the constant changes in athletics from year to year.

The fourth budget type is the fixed budget. This budget form projects expenditures and revenue on a monthly basis. The budget is useful in large revenue driven sports clinics and rarely used in academic settings. The fifth budget is the variable budget. Similarly to fixed budgets, academic athletic training programs do not use the variable budget. Institutions using the variable budget adjust the budget monthly so as to assure that expenditures do not exceed revenue. The sixth budget is the lump sum budget. Referred sometimes as the single pot budget, money sits in a single account for a program without specifying how or where the money is to be spent. Programs using the lump sum budget may use it as a spending ceiling or spending reduction budget. The seventh budget is the performance budget. This budget allocates funds for discrete activities such as rehabilitation, injury treatment, administration, patient education, first aid, and pregame preparation. The performance budget separates each section into ‘mini’ budgets. Athletic training programs rarely use the performance budget because of the difficulty in analyzing activity costs.

The budget athletic trainers’ use more often than any other budget type is the eighth budget, the line item budget. The line item budget allocates a fixed amount of money for each sub function of an athletic training program. These sub-functions include; expendable supplies, equipment repair, team physician services, and medical insurance. Athletic training programs use the line item budget extensively because of the control that it provides the head athletic trainer. The flexibility of the budget provides the athletic trainer the ability to dictate how much money they want to spend in one area. For example, if an athletic trainer knows that next year’s football team will be twice the size it is this year, he may decide to expand the expendable supplies (tape) budget and reduce the equipment repair budget to meet the needs of the coming year. This flexibility grants the athletic trainer the greatest freedom at determining his success or failure the next year.

A typical athletic training budget provides the athletic trainer the opportunity to cover the responsibilities of the position. Normal line items include; expendable supplies, capital equipment, equipment repair, and operating costs. Occasionally items including continuing education, malpractice insurance, postage, and telephone charges are included in the athletic training budget. What the athletic training budget covers depends for each athletic department. Some athletic departments add continuing education and postage to the general athletic fund.

Prior to 2004 athletic training programs incurred the cost of athletic training students as part of their budget. In 2004 the national accreditation body of athletic training education the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) ended the internship route for athletic training students thus ending athletic training compensation. The commission felt that students attended athletic training programs in order to become athletic trainers, and they do so because they have a desire to do so. To pay them for their educational clinical experience contradicts the purpose of the education program. The size of an athletic training budget does depend on several variables including the size of the athletic department.

God did not create all athletic departments equally. This is evident by the different divisions of athletics. A larger athletic department includes more teams and more athletes. To accommodate those sports and athletes, schools must build facilities and hire more coaches and staff. The most distinguishable variables between athletic departments include the division of athletics, number of athletes, number of sports, ratio of female to male athletes, and school size. These variables affect the athletic training budget tremendously. However, variables do not depend upon each other. For example, in 2008 the University of Notre Dame had only 8300 undergraduate students with 752 student-athletes (Notre Dame, 2008) compared to the University of Michigan that had 38,900 undergraduate students and 745 student-athletes (University of Michigan, 2008). Despite the huge difference in the student population, the schools play each other in athletics all the time. To date, only one researcher has investigated the comparison of athletic training budgets using these variables.

In 1992 Dr. James Rankin conducted research where the focus was to investigate the amount of money in athletic training budgets that is spent on athletes. In his research Dr. Rankin submitted surveys to 250 head athletic trainers at universities, colleges, high schools, professional football teams, and sports medicine clinics. All athletic programs included football and, except for the professional football teams, had female athletic teams.

The response rate to the surveys was 57.2% with 143 surveys returned. After analyzing the data the professional football programs and sports medicine clinic programs where eliminated because the results did not compare to traditional athletic training (Rankin, 1992; p. 344). Remaining college surveys included schools from NCAA divisions I, I-AA, II, and III programs. Also included were surveys from high school athletic trainers.

The surveys reported that the average size of all athletic departments included 295 male athletes and 175 female athletes for a total average of 471 per department. The average number of male teams was 9.65 and female teams at 8.51 for a total average of 18 teams per department. The largest departments belonged to Division I programs whereas the smallest departments belonged Division II programs. High schools averaged 490 athletes and 18 teams. Despite the comparable number of athletes and teams between large Division I universities (486 athletes, 17.5 teams) and high schools (490 athletes, 18 teams), larger universities had more athletic trainers on staff (4.4 on average) than high schools (1.1)(Rankin, 1992; p. 348).

Regardless of where the budget surveys came from, each included items pertaining to the normal budgetary concerns: 1) Expendable supplies include athletic tape, bandages, dressings, pharmaceuticals, and single use items. The range of budgets in Division I universities ranged from $40,000 to $205,000 in this section. 2) Capital equipment includes items designed to last longer than one year such as taping and treatment tables, whirlpools, therapeutic modalities, and stools. 3) Maintenance money to keep equipment calibrated and running. From all schools the smallest maintenance budget came from Division II schools. 4) Operating costs such as office supplies and athletic training students. 5) Contracted expenses include items such as heat and air conditioning, water, sewer, electricity, and facility debt reduction. The surveys report that a majority of these expenses where paid by the athletic department and did not come directly from the athletic training budget except for telephone charges. 6) Team physician expenses. 7) Athletic insurance. A majority of schools carry second dollar insurance, meaning that if an athlete has medical expenses because of an injury sustained during an athletic event the school will pay for medical expenses after the athlete’s insurance. 8) Athletic trainers’ salaries and benefits. The survey, conducted in 1992, shows a range of salaries for athletic trainers from $18,000 to $70,000 (Rankin 1992; p. 347). 9) Athletic trainers’ perks, including professional dues, travel expenses, and malpractice insurance. Finally, 10) a purchasing bid system where programs are required to obtain bids prior to purchasing supplies and equipment.

The results indicated that the range of money available to spend on athletes was wide comparatively. When Rankin calculated the total, he only included athletic training salaries, expendable supplies, athletic training students, and medical insurance into the equation. Athletic training budgets for Division I schools lead by having $926 per athlete in their budget. Division I-AA was second with $462 per athlete, then Division II with $293, then Division III with $181, and finally high school with $96 per student (Rankin 1992; p. 349). Rankin noted that as the program level decreased, salaries took a larger percentage of the athletic training budget even though the number of athletic trainers decreased (Rankin 1992; p. 349).


The most amazing information gathered from the research obtaining to athletic training budgets is the lack of data that exists. It was not the results of the research by Rankin that was a surprise. It is common knowledge in the athletic training profession that the larger athletic departments with Division I athletics have a much larger budget. What is surprising is the fact that no one has picked up the torch to conduct further research investigating if the trend discovered by Rankin continues.

Since the reporting of this data, the educational aspect of the profession of athletic training has changed. At the time of the report, academic athletic training programs provided students two paths towards becoming certified. One entailed completing an accredited program designed around didactic information combined with clinical observation and practice. The second involved an internship type of program designed around the gathering of clinical hours with very little didactic intervention. In 2004 the profession of athletic training removed this second method towards certification. The reason was to improve the quality of students seeking certification thus improving the profession.

By doing this, athletic training students shifted titles from assistant athletic trainers to students, thus ending any reimbursement for services and eliminating a line item in athletic training budgets for students. Regardless of the percentage of budgets freed by this change in academic titles, larger schools continue to enjoy budgets head and shoulders above other smaller schools with the same number of athletes and sports.

The work by Rankin demands that researchers collect new data. When they do, they should hypothesize that the data will be similar to Rankin’s data. The only difference should be the amount of money spent. The similarities will be that larger schools still have greater financial resources over smaller athletic departments. Hopefully, the research will continue.


Athletic training budgets are part of larger athletic department budgets. These budgets go to purchase supplies, equipment, salaries, insurance, and operating costs to maintain athletic training programs. Unlike athletic team budgets, athletic training budgets do not support athletic trainers, but rather the teams that athletic trainers cover. The discrepancy between athletic departments is noticeable both by athletic talent, size of school, and the financial recourses available. How then do athletic training budgets compare from school to school? In 1992 James Rankin gathered data to assess the differences in the financial resources available to college and high school athletic training programs. The research indicated that the range of money available to spend per athlete at these schools ranged from $926 to $96. Larger Division I athletic departments provided the largest financial resources available to athletic trainers and high schools provided the smallest. The results from this data come from 17 years ago. Since then the education of athletic training has changed athletic training programs and their budgets. New research into the similarities and differences between athletic training budgets is a must.


Fried, G., Shapiro, S.J., & DeSchriver, T. (2008). Sport finance. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Horine, L. (1991). Administration of physical education and sports programs (2nd ed). Dubuque, IA: Brown.

Mayo, H.B. (1978). Basic finance. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Notre Dame, (2008). How many students attend Notre Dame? Retrieved on September 20, 2009 from http://admissions.nd.edu/.

Rankin, J.M. (1992). Financial resources for conducting athletic training programs in the collegiate and high school settings. Journal of Athletic Training, 27, 344-349.

Ray, R.R. (2000). Management strategies in athletic training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. University of Michigan, (2008). Enrollment data fall 2008. Retrieved on September 20, 2009 from http://mmd.umich.edu/forum/michigan.php#enrollment

Wildavsky, A. (1975). Budgeting: a comparative theory of budgeting process. Boston: Little, Brown.

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