Second only to the NFL, college football is America’s most popular sport, with 47.5 million fans going to games in 2019, and their 392 regular season telecasts reaching more than 145 million unique viewers. Devoted college football fans can likely cite tons of stats, but does the average college football fan know just how much money the top teams in the league generate for their respective universities?
It depends on the team of course, but a college’s football team can be its most profitable entity, easily raking in tens of million dollars a year. No wonder there’s been such commotion around decisions to postpone or cancel games because of the pandemic! It’s not just the love of the game these universities are missing out on, it’s cold, hard cash — and a lot of it.
According to data newly released by the U.S. Department of Education looking at gross revenue during the fiscal year July 2018 to June 2019, these are the five richest teams in college football. Find out who is making the most money.
Last updated: Jan. 11, 2021
5. Ohio State Buckeyes
- Gross revenue: $115.1 million
2018 was a bumpy year for the Ohio State Buckeyes when you consider what was going on behind the scenes. The team lost its assistant coach, Zach Smith, after he was rightly fired by coach Urban Meyer for being ruled by a judge as an imminent danger to his ex-wife. Next, Meyer himself was suspended by Ohio State after the school conducted a two-week investigation into what he knew about the domestic abuse allegations against Smith. And then Meyer resigned.
Fortunately, the scandals didn’t harm the Buckeyes’ performance on the field: They won every game except for that 49-20 rout at Purdue. After expenses of $60.1 million, the program scored $55 million in profit.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Gross revenue: $115.5 million
This figure isn’t as easy to break down, in part because, as Penn State reported, Notre Dame had a rolling contract with NBC for almost three decades; but it’s unclear whether the $15 million from that agreement is included in this revenue figure. What is clear, though, is that the Fighting Irish nabbed a profit of $65.3 million after expenses. They finished the 2018 season with a 12-1 record and ranked fifth in the final AP poll.
3. Michigan Wolverines
- Gross revenue: $122.3 million
Nearly $123 million in gross revenue is a fortune, undoubtedly, but it’s only a so-so year for the Michigan Wolverines, who were seeing year over year of revenue gains. The team shed $2.6 million from 2017-18. Profits dropped too, down to $74.9 million from $81.4 million. The team closed the 2018 season 10-3 and ranked No. 14 in the AP poll.
2. Georgia Bulldogs
- Gross revenue: $123.1 million
It’s hard to top the Georgia Bulldogs (though we still have one slide to go, so clearly somebody did). They’re consistently the richest program in the SEC, with a 2019 Wall Street Journal report finding them to be worth $822.3 million. And they scored an incredible $73.9 million in profit for the 2018 season, which snagged them rank No. 7 in the AP poll that year.
1. Texas Longhorns
- Gross revenue: $156.1 million
The prize of richest team in college football goes to the Texas Longhorns. The team finished with a 10-4 record in the 2018 season and won the Sugar Bowl 28-21 over the Georgia Bulldogs. Profiting a total of $112.9 million, the program makes $15 million annually just with its ESPN Big-12 deal. The Longhorns are proof that you don’t have to be the biggest winners on the field to be the biggest earners.
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