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Wealth and Winning

Wealth and Winning
Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium, where Texas plays its home games. By Brint03 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26178826

Last August, Street and Smith Sports Business Journal published the top 25 revenue producing schools for football. These numbers were taken from the US Department of Education for the 2014-2015 academic year. No surprises to be found here, the top 25 is filled with Power 5 schools.

Ten of the 25 are from the SEC, and half of the top 10 are also SEC. The Big 10 placed six schools in the ranking. The Pac 12 had four schools, while the ACC and Big 12 each had two schools. Notre Dame was the only independent. Leading the way is Texas at over $121 million, followed by Alabama at about $97 million. USC comes in at the 25th position, generating $45,886,944. The numbers are big, simply stated college athletics is huge business.

Here are some interesting aspects about this ranking. Seven of the last 10 national champions are ranked in the top 10 football revenue producers. Florida, 11, and Florida State, 13, won the three championships not in the top 10 revenue producers. Nine of the last 10 champions come from the either SEC or the Big 10, with Florida State’s 2013 championship being the only exception.

The SEC and the Big 10 combined to have 16 of the top 25 spots in this ranking. Twenty three of the 25 schools listed are state schools and are the largest or one of the largest schools in their respected states. USC, 25, and ninth-ranked Notre Dame are the only two private schools on this list.

Lastly, the football revenue represents more than half of the overall revenue for 22 of the 25 schools. For example, Nebraska’s overall revenue was $103,763,277. Cornhusker football revenue was $60,956,894. Roughly 59 percent of Nebraska’s athletic revenue was tied to football. USC, Ohio State, and Iowa are the only schools whose football revenue was less than half of their overall revenue.

Although not a universal truth, it would be safe to say that success has a strong connection to wealth. Wealthy programs can afford the finest facilities, provide every amenity imaginable to the students-athletes who are coached, trained, and administered by as many well paid staff as deemed necessary.

All of this done for the sake of recruiting. If you have the finest facilities and provide all of the finest amenities, you can attract the finest players. If you have the finest players, you can win big. If you win big, you can play on TV. If you are playing on TV, the audience is big, the exposure is big, and the pay is big.

It is not surprising that the wealthiest programs are some of the most successful.


Education, U. D. (2016, August 22-28). Top Athletic Department Revenue for Football. Street and Smith Sports Business Journal , p. 27.

NCAA. (2016, September 23). www.ncaa.com/history/football/fbs. Retrieved from www.ncaa.com: http://www.ncaa.com/history/football/fbs

By Chris Coker

Chris Coker is the Director of Continuing Education at the United States Sports Academy. He can be reached at ccoker@ussa.edu. 


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