Football is by far the biggest revenue producer in college athletics, and Oklahoma football ranks sixth in that category according to a 2018 Forbes survey of the nation’s top programs.
It’s no coincidence that the most successful collegiate teams historically, the ones that generally have the most pervasive fan following, are the programs that are the most valuable as measured by revenue and profitability. Also not surprising, a top-25 ranking of the highest-valued teams in college football looks like a typical top-25 ranking, pick practically any season.
Forbes did a research study looking at revenue numbers and estimated profits of FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams over a three-year period from 2014 through 2016, the most recent years for which financial information exists. The revenue and profit totals were then averaged to come up with a single number representative of three-year cycle.
Based on Forbes’ calculations, “college football’s 25 most valuable teams generate a combined $2.5 billion in revenue, and they clear more than $1.4 billion annually after expenses.”
For the first time in quite a while, a team other than the University of Texas tops the list both in total revenue and profitability. The Aggies lead college football, bringing in an average of $148 million in revenue and $107 million after expenses. Texas is second with revenue of $133 million and $87 million in profit.
Oklahoma football brought in a three-year average of $118 million in revenue and $78 million after expenses, sixth best in the country for the period examined. No. 3 Michigan, Alabama and Ohio State rank above the Sooners. Notre Dame, Auburn, LSU and Florida round out the top 10 teams immediately behind OU.
Revenue sources for all of the teams include ticket sales, money from royalties and licensed products and the critical component of alumni contributions and public donations. The latter is becoming an increasing portion of the revenue stream.
Conference revenue distribution is another source of revenue and was a trigger point in much of the conference realignment that occurred in the early part of the current decade. The Big 12 paid out $34 million to member schools in its most recent distribution, according to Forbes. That compares to $41 million distributed among SEC schools.
It is easy to understand why revenue and earnings from football is the major source of funding for all the non-revenue collegiate sports such as softball, swimming and diving, golf, tennis, soccer, track and field, etc.
Only three schools from the Big 12 rank in college football’s 25 most valuable teams, as determined by Forbes. In addition to the Longhorns and Sooners, Texas Tech comes in 25th. Ten SEC teams are represented in the top 25. The Big Ten is next with seven teams.
When you look at these kind of numbers, it is hard to understand why there is so much financial hardship in collegiate athletic programs. The truth is, however, college sports mirrors what is going economically in today’s society: the rich continue to get richer, while the poor get poorer.
Seven years ago, in 2011, Forbes reported that Texas was the first college football program to exceed $100 million in revenue., and in 2014 the Longhorns generated more in profit ($92 million) than all but two programs produced in revenue.
Today, 11 football teams generate annual revenue over the $100 million mark. Good to know that OU is right there among the elitist brands in the business.