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The Big Ten just crossed a major money milestone

At least one school is getting more than $50 million this year.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Michigan is getting a $50 million payout from the Big Ten in 2018, according to a financial presentation the school gave on Thursday:

The Big Ten distribution is in the second line of that photo, coming in at $51,060,000, exactly. It’s the first recorded instance of a conference shelling out above the $50 million mark to members in one year.

Not every Big Ten school gets exactly the same amount from the conference, but most longtime members bring in roughly similar numbers. (Newish member Rutgers lagged well behind in 2017.) But the conference is still climbing to payout levels never seen before.

The Big Ten appears to have pushed ahead of the SEC in payouts.

Last year’s numbers by power league:

Those numbers are pretty in line with other reporting about 2017 payouts. The SEC had been the longtime leader, but the Big Ten’s gotten a boost from a massive TV deal it struck in 2017 for football and men’s basketball with ESPN and Fox.

Conference payouts matter, but they’re not a be-all/end-all.

They’re generally the biggest source of revenue for an athletic department’s budget, but athletics directors still make money in other ways. For instance, even this record Big Ten distribution is only about 27 percent of Michigan’s annual athletic budget, with ticket sales and sponsorship combining to bring in a lot more than the Big Ten pays.

These payouts also only mean so much for football and men’s basketball. Schools already invest a lot in those sports, and it’s hard to imagine a world where Power 5 athletic departments make a lot of competitive decisions in them based on what they make from their conferences. In other words, Michigan football was already going to be well-funded.

Money’s still good, though. It makes for a stronger athletic department, which can pay more to quality coaches and get nice stuff for athletes. Just remember that it’s the schools getting these huge payouts who have decided not to pay players with it.