The Business of College Football. Who’s Making the Most Money?

Business of College Football

By William Bruce

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that college football is big business.   In fact, it’s huge.

Thanks to a recent study by Scott Thomas of the The Business Journals, we are able to clearly see which schools are pulling in the money.

Listed below are the top 20 schools in the country ranked by the total 3-year football revenue from 2009 through 2011:

  • Texas                  $294 million
  • Alabama             $231 million
  • Georgia               $221 million
  • Auburn               $220 million
  • Michigan             $219 million
  • Florida                $216 million
  • Penn State         $209 million
  • LSU                     $206 million
  • Notre Dame       $202 million
  • Ohio State          $183 million
  • Oklahoma           $177 million
  • Arkansas            $174 million
  • Tennessee          $166 million
  • Nebraska            $160 million
  • South Carolina   $152 million
  • Iowa                    $141 million
  • Michigan State   $139 million
  • Texas A&M        $132 million
  • Wisconsin           $130 million
  • Washington        $126 million

Of course, it should be remembered that it’s not all profit.  These are gross revenue numbers and there are significant expenses – in addition to winning football teams – involved in producing these revenue numbers.

Other nuggets from the report: The school with the highest average home game attendance over three years was Michigan with 112,000 seats filled in their stadium.  Ohio State was second with 105,000 and Alabama third with 102,000 attending home games, on average.

How about success on the football field in addition to success at the bank?  The top 10 most successful teams over the last three seasons, including 2012, in winning percentage are:

  • Oregon                    .900
  • Boise State              .897
  • Stanford                  .875
  • Alabama                  .875
  • LSU                          .850
  • No. Illinois               .810
  • Oklahoma                .800
  • Texas Christian      .795
  • Oklahoma State      .795
  • Ohio State                .789

Proponents of a successful college program say that football serves broader university interests, as it encourages more and better student applications and promotes alumni and government support.

In his book on the history of modern era college football, Michael Oriard makes the point that football is “the chief activity through which alumni remain attached to their university.”  It provides, he says, meaningful rituals and a sense of community “whose social benefit is hard to measure but nevertheless is real and powerful.”

Bear Bryant made the same point more succinctly when he said, “It’s kind of hard to rally ‘round a math class.”

About William Bruce

President, American Business Brokers Association / Business Broker and Accredited Business Intermediary assisting business buyers and sellers with the transfer of ownership since 1986 / Author: How to Buy a Business.
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1 Response to The Business of College Football. Who’s Making the Most Money?

  1. Andrew says:

    I’m an LSU fan myself, but when you look at the research budget of Ivy League schools, in the billion dollar range, football can’t compare.

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