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

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):










Oklahoma St.



Texas Tech



Iowa State



Kansas State






West Virginia









BCS Breakdown

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

1. Notre Dame


2. Alabama


3. Florida


4. Oregon


5. Kansas State


6. Stanford


7. Georgia


8. LSU


9. Texas A&M


10. South Carolina


11. Oklahoma


12. Florida State


13. Oregon State


14. Clemson


15. Northern Illinois


16. Nebraska


17. UCLA


18. Michigan


19. Boise State


20. Northwestern


21. Louisville


22. Utah State


23. Texas


24. San Jose State


25. Kent State


Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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