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The New Economy

BCS rankings: Top 25 teams by the dollars

Among the BCS rankings' top 25, all teams are not economically equal. Which teams bring home huge profits for their schools?

By Contributor / October 26, 2009

Texas offensive lineman Charlie Tanner strikes a pose with the Golden Hat, which goes to the winner of the annual Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma in Dallas, Texas. The hat isn't the only thing that's golden about Texas football: they're also one of the most profitable teams in the BCS top 25.

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If you're a college football fan, you probably adhere to some brand of the Al Davis doctrine: "Just win, baby."

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But big-time college powerhouses are run like big businesses: They recruit, spend millions of dollars a year, and usually turn a profit. So if there were a BCS of profitable college football teams, who would come out on top?

To get a handle on that answer, we compared college expenses and revenues of this year's BCS top 25 squads using 2007 data from the Department of Education (2008 isn't available yet). Four of the top 25 BCS teams are private – No. 5 University of Southern California, No. 6 Texas Christian University, No. 19 Miami, and No. 23 Notre Dame – so they don't have to report their data. Of the remaining 21 teams, here are our top picks by biggest profits, wins per dollar, and lowest spending per player.

Bottom line superstars

When belts are tightening in athletic departments, it's often the case of the rich getting richer (football, basketball programs) while the poor get poorer (Olympic sports) . That doesn't mean football programs are impervious to attack. But when you can turn a $52.9 million profit like No. 3 University of Texas did in 2007, that certainly helps the cause.

This year's athletic Top 3 were also the most profitable among the top 25 BCS programs (in order: Texas, Florida, and the No. 2 University of Alabama). No. 9 LSU, No. 12 Penn State, and No. 22 South Carolina all posted solid profits in the mid $30 million range.

Only one school in the Top 25, the University of Houston, lost money in 2007: just over $2 million.

The main discriminator here seems to have less to do with performance and more to do with the size of a team's home turf. Stadiums with 100,000-plus seats, like those at Ohio State and Texas (and even "smaller" 90,000-plus arenas like those at LSU and Alabama), were tickets to big financial returns. By contrast, only one of the 12 teams that made $15 million or less in profit had a stadium larger than 70,000 seats (No. 24 University of California – Berkeley).

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