Let’s See! Which College Football Programs are Profitable?
College football has been an immensely popular source of entertainment for people around the world, especially in the United States. NCAA Football, in particular, is arguably at par with other professional sports in terms of the viewership that it garners, and the level of popularity that college football possesses has turned it into a lucrative business for schools.
Most college football programs now enter into business deals with companies, thanks to the star power of their players and the overall reputation of their respective teams. This is in addition to the revenue they get from television, from ticket sales, and support from their fans.
Some programs, however, are simply more popular, or more adept at business, than others. These programs manage to outperform their competition in the finance department regardless of what the win column says.
As of 2020, these are the highest-grossing college football programs in the NCAA:
1. Texas - $156 million
The Texas Longhorns’ athletic department is headed by athletic director Chris Del Conte, and despite the pandemic, has managed to rake in impressive profits. Although the Longhorns haven’t been at the top-tier in terms of performance in the NCAA, the program still has the support from its fans and is basically a self-sustaining operation.
Despite the lack of recent playoff success, Texas has nonetheless turned in compelling enough performances to warrant getting into the Bowl Games. The program has also produced some notable names in the NFL in recent years, such as Super Bowl champion Jordan Hicks, and 2018 First-team All-Pro Michael Dickson.
2. Georgia - $123 million
Georgia has been a force in the Southeastern Conference in recent years, winning three straight Division Titles from 2017-2019 and making the College Football Playoff and winning the conference championship once in 2017.
The Bulldogs have been largely funded by contributions from their supporters in addition to media rights and sponsorships, and it’s safe to say that supporters have been seeing results. Some of the Georgia alumni in the NFL are 2020 4th overall pick Andrew Thomas and 2020 Second-team All-Pro Roquan Smith.
3. Michigan - $122 million
Although Michigan is yet to make a run at the championship, the team has been a Bowl Game mainstay in recent years. With the immense fanbase of the Wolverines, it’s not surprising to see the team among the highest-earning programs in college football.
The Michigan Wolverines is an historic team that has been immensely successful throughout its expansive history, and the money it’s generating right now is bound to bring more success to the 2018 Big Ten East Division Champions. Among the Wolverines in the NFL today are three-time Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan and two-time pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion Frank Clark.
4. Notre Dame - $116 million
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish is another historically great team that has found consistent success until today not just financially, but also on the field. Since the implementation of the College Football Playoff, the Fighting Irish have made two appearances though the team is yet to win it all, but the team definitely has the finances to make a strong push in the near future.
Notre Dame is also not short on players who have brought pride to the school in the NFL. Some Notre Dame alumni in the NFL are Pro Bowler Jaylon Smith, and six-time Pro Bowler and four-time First-team All-Pro nominee Zack Martin.
5. Ohio State - $115 million
Ohio State has been a Big Ten powerhouse in recent years, and it’s partly thanks to the immense budget they have. The Buckeyes have been collecting tremendous donations, and has been smart in closing sponsorship and licensing deals which have greatly contributed to their revenue.
The Buckeyes have made 4 playoff appearances since the College Football Playoff was implemented and has won the national title once in 2014. The program has also produced a handful of elite NFL players, including back-to-back number two overall picks and Defensive Rookies of the Year in Nick Bosa and Chase Young, and three-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-team All-Pro Joey Bosa.
6. Penn State - $100 million
The Penn State Nittany Lions program has been moderately successful in the Big Ten, winning one conference title in 2016. Although most of its recent success has been confined in the regular season and in its constant appearances in the Bowl Games, Penn State has remained among the best in the financial department.
With the team’s wide fanbase, and the generous support of contributors, Penn State has been able to generate heaps of revenue despite the pandemic. This financial success has helped propel the rise of Penn State alumni in the NFL, such as 2018 second overall pick, Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Pro Bowler Saquon Barkley, and Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowler Chris Godwin.
7. Auburn - $95 million
Auburn has been one of the most entertaining teams to watch in recent years, as evidenced by its eight straight Bowl Game appearances from 2013 to 2020. This has helped the football program generate profits, and it probably won’t take long for those profits to translate into results.
While the Tigers are yet to appear in a playoff game, it’s been doing great with its recruiting, having recruited players such as 2020 seventh overall pick Derrick Brown and 2015 MVP and three-time Pro Bowler Cam Newton.