How Much Revenue Does Major College Football Generate?
Do you support efforts to play college football this season?
by Causes | 9.5.20
What’s the story?
- The Saturday of Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of the college football season, and while there will be games played this weekend, the seasons of many teams across the country have been postponed or shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Of the 130 teams participating in college football’s top tier, the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), 54 had their seasons postponed while the rest will play their modified schedules with few (if any) fans in the stands. Most of the teams that are playing have implemented testing regimens in which players and staff are tested at least three times per week.
- Two of the most prominent conferences in college athletics, the Big Ten and Pacific-12 (Pac-12), postponed their seasons until January, while the three other “Power Five” conferences ― the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12, and Southeastern Conference (SEC) ― opted for shorter seasons without non-conference opponents that will begin later in September.
- College football programs in most cases generate profits for the athletic department and institution at large through ticket sales, gameday concessions, merchandise sales, donations, and TV contracts; so postponing the season or playing fewer games without fans in attendance will impact the finances of many colleges around the country.
How much revenue does college football generate?
- The 64 Power Five programs in 2017-18 generated on average about 3.5% institutional revenue through college football. That funding supports the football program and the broader university, with funds commonly used to support scholarships and other expenses in sports within the athletic department that don’t generate significant amounts of revenue.
- This USAFacts chart shows the revenue and profit from college football programs in the Power Five conferences plus Notre Dame, which traditionally plays an independent schedule, as compared to the institution’s revenue in 2017:
- The Power Five colleges that had the largest share of revenue from football in 2017-18 were the University of Oklahoma at 9.5% and the University of Alabama at 8.6%. The Big Ten program with the highest share of institutional revenue coming from football was the University of Nebraska at 8.2%, while the Pac-12’s leader in that category was the University of Oregon at 7.2%.
- This USAFacts chart shows the most profitable college football programs based on their 2017-2018 profit:
- The University of Texas had the most profitable football program in 2017-18, with a $101 million profit on $143 million in football revenue, which represented 3.9% of the institution’s revenue. (For the sake of comparison, the University of Louisville had the most profitable college basketball program in 2017-18 and netted $17 million).
- The Big Ten featured seven football programs with profits that exceeded $40 million in 2017-18, and four of the 10 programs with profits of at least $50 million. The Pac-12’s most profitable program in 2017-18 was the University of Oregon at $42 million.
- This USAFacts chart shows that the Big Ten was the most profitable football conference in 2017-18, while the Pac-12 on average had the smallest profits of the Power Five leagues:
- Beyond the revenue to colleges and their athletic departments, college football (when fans are permitted) drives economic activity in the broader community at restaurants, bars, hotels, and more.
When will the Big Ten and Pac-12 play?
- On August 11th, the Big Ten announced the postponement of the season of its football season after leaders of the conference’s member institutions cast what was later revealed to be an 11-3 vote in favor of postponing the season until next year. The same day, the Pac-12 announced that it would postpone college football and all other fall sports until January 1st.
- In an effort to help facilitate the return of Big Ten football, President Donald Trump spoke with Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren on Tuesday and tweeted, “Had a very productive conversation with Kevin Warren, Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, about immediately starting up Big Ten football. Would be good (great!) for everyone - Players, Fans, Country. On the one yard line!”
- The Big Ten released a statement calling it a “productive conversation” and that the conference is “exhausting every resource to help student-athletes get back to playing the sports they love, at the appropriate time, in the safest and healthiest way possible.”
- While no formal announcements have been made, there are indications the Big Ten and Pac-12 could attempt to start their football seasons later this fall.
- Several days before the call between Trump and the Big Ten commissioner, reports were circulating that the Big Ten may reconsider its decision and try to begin its season in late November. On September 4th, the Pac-12 announced a “gamechanger” agreement with diagnostic test company Quidel Corporation to implement daily testing with rapid results for student-athletes, coaches, and support personnel within the program, with equipment expected to arrive by the end of September which could allow games to be played before January.
- The Associated Press Preseason Top 25 poll features six teams from the Big Ten, including the Ohio State Buckeyes (#2), Penn State Nittany Lions (#7), Wisconsin Badgers (#12), Michigan Wolverines (#16), Minnesota Gophers (#19), and Iowa Hawkeyes (#24). The Pac-12 has three programs in the AP Preseason Top 25 ― the Oregon Ducks (#9), USC Trojans (#17), and Utah Utes (#22).
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Maize and Blue Nation via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)
What Does the August Data Say About COVID-19?This content leverages data from USAFacts, a non-profit that visualizes governmental data. You can learn more on its website,
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