USA Today released their annual spending and revenue report for all FBS and FCS public schools. If you're a junkie for the business side of college sports like I am, this is great news.
If you look at the numbers, it's pretty clear that with the increasing revenue coming from major TV contracts, non-BCS leagues are being left in the dust. The biggest number to look at is the subsidy %. That's how much of an athletic department's revenue is generated from things like student fees, because they can't operate financially on their own. People often get the impression that college athletics is a revenue generator for most colleges, but that's really only true at the absolute top level, and even then it's only through ancillary benefits like community involvement and increased alumni donations.
Put simply, if your school is operating at over 25% school subsidies, it's not on a sustainable path into the future, given the increasing budget shortfalls at most colleges. If you look at the #s posted, there isn't a single non-BCS school without at least that 25% subsidy, and many non-BCS schools are at numbers well over 50%. The only BCS conference with any substantial school subsidies are from the Big East (not surprisingly). All Big Ten schools are operating at under 10%.
What this means is that there are increasingly fewer options for non-BCS schools to be legitimately competitive. You can't ask for greater subsidies if you are already being funded so heavily from your schools, and a conference like the Sun Belt is never going to be legitimately competitive if their revenue is 10% of schools in the Big Ten and the SEC.
And, these numbers are from 2006-2011, before many of these major TV contracts have gone into effect.