Texas football leads the way among cash cows, but most schools are lucky to break even

Posted Tuesday, Dec. 04, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
A
Bevo is boffo

The Texas football program's revenues and profits more than doubled in nine years, according the U.S. Department of Education (in millions):

Year

Revenues

Profit

2011

103.8

77.9

2010

95.7

71.2

2009

93.9

68.8

2008

87.6

65

2007

73.0

53.0

2006

63.8

46.2

2005

60.9

42.5

2004

53.2

38.7

2003

47.6

34.7

Top 10 in 2011

Team

FB revenues

Profit

Texas

103.8

77.9

Alabama

82

45.1

Auburn

77.2

43.9

Georgia

75

52.3

Florida

74.1

51.1

Notre Dame

69

43.2

LSU

68.8

44.8

Penn State

66.2

36

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Business is good for Bevo.

And 2011 was a banner year in Austin.

Yes, Texas only went 8-5 and earned a Holiday Bowl berth, but the Longhorns cashed in more than any other school in the history of college football.

The Longhorns' football revenues exceeded $100 million, more than double from nine years ago, leading to a $77.9 million profit, up 105 percent since '03.

Texas' football-only revenue of $103.8 million tops the country, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education, and is nearly $20 million more than Michigan, which is second with $85.2 million in football revenue.

All the heavy hitters you'd expect -- Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Notre Dame -- earned huge profits from football in 2011. But about a third of the teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision broke even or lost money.

TCU was one of them.

Figures reported by TCU show the football program broke even in the 2011-12 school year, when the Horned Frogs were still competing in the Mountain West Conference. The Frogs ranked 42nd of 118 FBS schools with $26 million in revenues, just behind Cal at $26.1 million and just ahead of Stanford at $25.6 million. But both of those schools earned a profit of $6.9 million from football, while TCU reported $26 million in football-related expenses, seventh-most in the nation. The bulk of TCU's expenses were travel, equipment and staff salaries.

Alabama led the nation with $36.9 million in football expenses. Three others (Ohio State, Auburn and Penn State) had expenses of more than $30 million. Oklahoma State topped the Big 12 with $26.2 million in expenses for 2011.

Oklahoma was second in the Big 12 and 12th overall with profits of $35.5 million. Texas A&M, which now plays in the Southeastern Conference, was third in the Big 12 with $26.5 million in profits. The Aggies would have ranked ninth in revenue and eighth in profit in the SEC.

Schools that profit from football use the proceeds to cover the costs of Olympic sports -- track and field, swimming and diving, etc. But 73 of the 118 schools had $1 million or less in athletic profits. (Data for Air Force and Navy was not available.)

For schools without Texas' rich, figuratively and literally, history, athletic costs can lead to higher tuition and student expenses.

"I do think it raises a lot of questions about the viability of a lot of programs that are forced to continue to incur losses to compete with schools such as the University of Texas," said Mark Conrad, associate professor of law and ethics at Fordham. "Certainly the costs have to be coming from somewhere, and usually it's either tuition or its alumni, either way."

Texas tops the nation with an athletic department that took in $163.3 million in 2011-12, followed by Ohio State at $142 million. Eleven schools earned more than $100 million from athletics in 2011, including five from the SEC. Oklahoma pulled in $106.5 million, eighth-most. TCU was 40th overall with athletic revenue of $68 million, but reported it broke even.

"Obviously, if [the athletic department] is profitable it will clearly help the institution, but it also places certain pressures to maintain their profitability and maintain a quality product," Conrad said. "How much pressure [is coming] from alums, how much pressure from the students that are there? And how much does that burden the educational mission? If the university's not there to be an athletic profit-making machine, does [athletic expense] supplant other goals the university may have? That's a really difficult question and doesn't really have an easy answer."

Revenue comes from ticket sales, media rights, corporate sponsorships and donations from boosters.

When 2012's figures are available next year, the rich are likely to have gotten richer. The Longhorn Network, a cable channel devoted to Texas athletics and owned by ESPN, premiered in August 2011 and will pay the school about $11 million a year, plus another $4 million annually to the school's athletic marketing agent IMG, for 20 years.

By 2031, it appears, a $77.9 million profit will be chump change.

Revenue scoreboard

A look at the 2011 football revenue and profit for schools in the Big 12 in 2011-12 (in millions):

School

Revenue

Profit

Texas

$103.8

$77.9

Oklahoma

$59.6

$35.5

Oklahoma St.

$41.1

$14.9

Texas Tech

$33.5

$17.3

Iowa State

$29.8

$15.7

Kansas State

$26.2

$12.9

TCU

$26

0

West Virginia

$24.5

$10.4

Baylor

$19.9

$2.8

Kansas

$15.3

(-$5.3)

BCS Breakdown

2011 football revenues by the teams in this year’s final BCS standings (in millions):

1. Notre Dame

69

2. Alabama

82

3. Florida

74.1

4. Oregon

51.9

5. Kansas State

26.2

6. Stanford

25.6

7. Georgia

75

8. LSU

68.8

9. Texas A&M

44.4

10. South Carolina

48.1

11. Oklahoma

59.6

12. Florida State

34.5

13. Oregon State

20.6

14. Clemson

39.2

15. Northern Illinois

7.2

16. Nebraska

55.1

17. UCLA

25.2

18. Michigan

85.2

19. Boise State

15.3

20. Northwestern

27.5

21. Louisville

23.8

22. Utah State

5.9

23. Texas

103.8

24. San Jose State

5.8

25. Kent State

5.3

Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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