Most Profitable College Football Schools and Conferences

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The business of college sports has been a rapidly changing landscape over the last few decades. Stadiums have increased in size, television contract revenues have gone through the roof and coaches’ salaries have skyrocketed as the biggest collegiate athletic programs are raking in more and more money.

College football in particular is a source of immense wealth for many universities across the U.S. The NCAA’s new college football playoff system will see its inauguration in the 2014 season and it’s estimated to be worth about $470 million annually to the conferences. The staggering economics of college football have led to greater debate over whether or not students should be compensated beyond scholarships for the immense revenue they help generate for their colleges.

While college football players aren’t officially paid to play for their schools, a few are about to receive their first tastes of earning a professional athlete’s salary. With the 2014 NFL Draft set to begin on Thursday, May 8, NerdWallet took a look at the most profitable college football schools and conferences in the nation, as well as how many players those schools have sent to the NFL over the years.

We compiled revenue and expense data between 2000 and 2013 from the United States Department of Education to find the biggest money-makers in college football. Profits were calculated by subtracting total expenses (scholarships, salaries to coaches and other staff, recruiting and travel costs, promotions, game expenses, facilities and other expenses) from total revenues (ticket sales, contributions, TV and radio, licensing and sponsorships, endowments, NCAA and conference distributions and other revenues).

Check out the following graph to see the 10 most profitable schools and toggle the marker to view how the schools compare in overall spending between 2000 and 2013, total number of drafted players from each school, profit per drafted player and average draft position.

The top ten money-makers include five schools from the SEC (Georgia, Florida, Alabama, LSU and Auburn), three from the Big Ten (Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State), one from the Big 12 (Texas) and one independent school (Notre Dame).

The Texas Longhorns have earned the greatest total profit between 2000 and 2013, while the Ohio State Buckeyes have spent the most money on their football program.

Of the ten most profitable football schools, Georgia and Ohio State are the biggest NFL talent factories, with each producing 79 draftees since 2000.

Top 5 Money-Makers in College Football

 

  • The University of Texas has seen profits from their football program increase 434% from $15.3 million in 2000-2001 to $81.7 million in 2012-13.
  • There were 3 Longhorns in the 2013 NFL Draft (one first round pick).
  • All-time winning percentage: 71.5%
  • Coach’s salary: $5.4 million (Mack Brown)

 

 

  • UGA’s football profits have increased 151% from $20.4 million in 2000-2001 to $51.3 million in 2012-2013.
  • There were 8 Bulldogs in the 2013 NFL Draft (2 first round picks)
  • All-time winning percentage: 64.7%
  • Coach’s salary: $3.2 million (Mark Richt)

 

 

  • Michigan football’s profits have increased 340% from $13.3 million in 2000-2001 to $58.4 million in 2012-2013.
  • There were 2 Wolverines in the 2013 NFL Draft (0 first round picks).
  • All-time winning percentage: 73.2%
  • Coach’s salary: $4.2 million (Brady Hoke)

 

 

  • Florida’s football profits have increased 145% from $20.1 million in 2000-2001 to $49.1 million in 2012-13.
  • There were 8 Gators in the 2013 NFL Draft (2 first round picks).
  • All-time winning percentage: 63.3%
  • Coach’s salary: $2.7 million (Will Muschamp)

 

 

  • Notre Dame’s football profits have increased 45% from $31.6 million in 2000-2001 to $46.0 million in 2012-13.
  • There were 6 Fighting Irish in the 2013 NFL Draft.
  • All-time winning percentage: 73.3%
  • Coach’s salary: $1.1 million (Brian Kelly)

 

Most Profitable Conferences in College Football

The following graph shows the five most profitable conferences in college football (based on schools’ current membership in each conference). Toggle the graph to see how the major conferences compare to each other in the other variables.

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