Top 20 Most Profitable College Football Programs

The 20 most profitable college football programs made an eye-popping $925 million combined after expenses. The SEC is the leading conference on the field and on the balance sheet, as it has nine schools in the top 20. Of the remaining 11 most profitable programs, there are four from the Big Ten, three from Pac-12, two from the Big-12 and one from the ACC. Here’s the complete list:

  1. Texas – $92 million
  2. Tennessee – $70 million
  3. LSU – $58 million
  4. Michigan – $56 million
  5. Notre Dame – $54 million
  6. Georgia – $50 million
  7. Ohio State – $50 million
  8. Oklahoma – $48 million
  9. Auburn – $47 million
  10. Alabama – $46 million
  11. Oregon – $40 million
  12. Florida State – $39 million
  13. Arkansas – $38 million
  14. Washington – $38 million
  15. Florida – $37 million
  16. Texas A&M – $37 million
  17. Penn State – $36 million
  18. Michigan State – $32 million
  19. USC – $29 million
  20. South Carolina – $28 million

Wins don’t affect the bottom line

Texas is by far the most profitable football program despite only winning five games last season. On the flip side, Clemson won 14 games and competed in the National Championship yet it’s not one of the 20 most profitable football programs.

Texas makes the most money after expenses because of television revenue. The University of Texas owns the Longhorn Network which broadcasts its games. The most profitable conferences, the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12, each run their own lucrative television network as well. Television revenue also boosts the profits of Notre Dame’s football team, as the Fighting Irish have an exclusive deal with NBC to broadcast its games.

Other uber-profitable schools, like Tennessee and Michigan, supplement television revenue the old-fashion way, generating money from ticket sales in their gigantic stadiums. The Wolverines home field, Michigan Stadium, is the largest in the country, seating over 107,000 people while Volunteers’ stomping ground, Neyland Stadium, holds just over 102,000 fans.

If these ultra-lucrative football programs are so profitable, should student-athletes be paid?
The elephant in the room is that all of these schools are making lots of money from the hard work of unpaid student-athletes. In light of these immense profits, fans and the media have begun to put pressure on the NCAA to start compensating football and men’s basketball players. Despite growing public sentiment to pay student-athletes, the reality is that even athletic departments with the most profitable football programs struggle to break even.

This happens because football and, to a lesser extent, men’s basketball subsidize all of the other sports which do not generate any revenue. So, in order pay student-athletes, schools would have to cut other non-revenue sports.

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