Its July, and already the shelves are stuffed with early preseason magazines for college football. It’s way too premature to know who is going to be the best. Typically, the traditional powerhouses get the benefit of the doubt, and the under the radar teams receive no street cred.
We see it every year. The Texas and Oklahoma’s of the world are like stock moguls Apple and Google, and everybody goes for a ride on their choo-choo train. Meanwhile, teams like Kansas State and Oklahoma State are thrown away like last year’s Netflix and Expedia shares.
Everybody wins in different ways - coaching, recruiting, facilities, tradition, strength of schedule, etc. What do all these have in common? It all comes down to money, and trying to keep up with the Jerry Jones’s of the world. The Dallas Cowboys built the largest jumbotron, so now Auburn swings their dick to build one even bigger (see for yourself).
It’s all about the Benjamins! And the more money you spend, the more wins fans expect from you on the field. Why do you think there were more cameras on (former) Michigan coach Brady Hoke than the Kardashians last fall? Because he has been given the keys to the Big House, charter planes and Big Blue football.
Same way with Texas’ former coach Mack Brown – you are living the thug life in Austin, Texas with the Longhorn Network bankroll, and you can’t buy any good players?
Money can solve a lot of things, but in the case of college football it can create more problems, and the number one problem is expectations!
Take Bo Pelini at Nebraska for example. Apparently winning nine games CONSISTENTLY wasn't good enough for the fan base. And yes - Cooter Ray Cornholer is still waiting for Tom Osborne to come out of retirement.
Every year, the U.S. Department of Education releases the total revenue and expenditures for each and every college program, from fiscal year July to June. They break down expenses by teams and genders, even coaching salaries, recruiting and gameday expenses. You can check it out HERE.
I have taken data from July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014, and have matched it up with the 2013-14 season (when Florida State went all the way). I decided to go through each Power 5 school, and provide to you the fiscally responsible, the good (and bad) return on investors, and how that team in Ames, Iowa compares to the rest of the world.
First up, are the top-15 in gross revenue. Stacked up against revenue is net income.
As you can see, powerhouses Texas, Alabama, Michigan, LSU and Notre Dame round out the top five. As expected, nearly every school on this list has a major historical prestige amongst the public. They have won national championships, brought players to the NFL and are seen as the who’s who in college football. I also put net profit next to the gross revenue, showing you how much money these schools take home.
Going back 50 years, every team on this list has won a national championship, except Texas A&M. What makes it even more interesting, is the fact that only 8 of the 15 were ranked in the AP Top-25 at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Surprises on this list are Washington (1980s-90s powerhouse), South Carolina (thanks, Steve Spurrier), and Arizona State (helps when you have nearly 35,000 students, and smokeshows for girls).
Next up are the Top-15 spenders, and in comparison are their wins for the 2013-14 college football year.
This should have a direct correlation to wins on a football field. Major factors in these numbers are coaches’ salaries, gameday expenses, facilities, student aid and recruiting expenses.
Right off the bat we see Auburn at the top of the list. You can thank Gene Chizik’s massive buyout for that one. Another surprise on the list is TCU at number five. They are obviously making football a high priority at that school, especially now that they are in the Big 12. Not a revelation, but six of the top-25 are in the SEC, and six are from the Big Ten. Those TV contracts are just forcing coaches to eat steak dinners and blow cash at the strip clubs.
Now is when we get into the good stuff. Which teams used their money most wisely and produced the best bang for their buck, per se? The graph below shows you how much money a team spent for every win that was produced in 2013-14.
As you can guess, Oregon and their spread offense juggernaut tops this list! They had 11 wins in 2014, and for every win they spent less than $2 million dollars. I guess you can thank Nike for that. Gary Pinkel's Missouri Tigers made some friends in the SEC sandbox, along with Louisville, who just joined the ACC.
What really stands out to me on this list are the little brothers that don't belong - Texas Tech, Oregon State, Duke, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Maryland and Vanderbilt. All these teams fly under the radar, have above average coaching staffs and can get wins without recruiting 4- and 5-star players. In other words, their coaches deserve a bonus.
Next, we get to see who pulled a Bernie Madoff over their booster’s eyes and can be qualified as fiscally irresponsible for the 2013-14 football season.
California is the loss leader on this list, followed by Purdue, Virginia and Arkansas. For every win of Cal's in 2014 (1), they spent $22 million dollars. The majority of the teams on this list have little to no tradition in football, and no history or heritage. Even some are basketball schools (Kansas and Kentucky). It's like a sinking stock before you see it coming - look at Florida, Texas and Michigan. All three of those schools fired their coach in the last two years.
Surprises on this list were Arkansas, TCU, Tennessee and Auburn. They all turned it around, and were on this list certainly due to the fact that their program already spends a lot of money!
If you wanted to see how the Power-Five Conferences broke out on average, here they are.
Not surprisingly, with their recruiting hotbed and welfare demographics, we find the SEC at the top. On average, SEC schools brought in $55M per year, and netted a solid $28M. Thanks to ESPN for that new TV contract! The Big Ten narrowly edges the Big 12, at $43M and $42M, and the Pac-12 and ACC round out the list.
Lastly, we see the Big 12 and how it shakes out amongst all 10 schools.
Again, BEVO and his blood orange Texans lead the list. Followed by little brothers Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas.
Thank God there isn’t a Big 12 North and South. Iowa State actually comes in at number seven, and out-produces Baylor, Kansas and West Virginia. Their profit margin is quite impressive seeing that the Cyclones take home 55% of their income.
For the 2013-14 year, Iowa State generated $30.9M in football profits and spent $14.4M. Not bad for a school located in Ames, Iowa, and without any football history of any kind. ISU’s gross revenue increased by 7% from the previous year, which was right on average with all other Power 5 schools.
From the movie "Field of Dreams," build it and they will come. Hopefully the south end zone expansion will attract new recruits, which will win more games, and in effect get more butts in the seats.
It's all a matter of time. Jamie Pollard and the ISU staff are on the right track.