Due to the current interest in conference realignment, this page is getting tons of traffic and lots of comments.
So, I want to update it with new numbers you can find at Big 10 edges SEC in 2008 total sports revenue and 2010 College Sports TV Revenue By Conference. However, neither of those posts takes into account the full impact of the SEC's new deal with ESPN ($2 billion over 15 years) which only began in the fall of 2009. Also, neither breaks it down so that we can see how much revenue is produced solely by football. So, we continue to maintain that the SEC is the top college FOOTBALL revenue conference. However, let's be clear that we don't have full information and undoubtedly it is very close between the SEC and Big Ten; and probably changes from day to day. One thing is clear -- both conferences are way ahead of the others and both make lot's of money from college football.
One of the most common adages you will hear is the statement that "money will not bring you happiness." While that bit of wisdom is certainly true; money can help set the stage for happiness.
This applies as much to college football as to anything else in life. In the world of college sports, money can buy you the best facilities, coaches, recruiting programs, publicity, and all the other "perks" that are a part of top college sports programs.
Of course having the best of everything that money can buy will not guarantee winning teams. But, it sure will help. And, if you look at the list of which schools have the top revenue producing sports programs - you will find that those schools are also at the top of the win-loss column as well. Certainly, this universally true if you look at it from any long-term perspective.
To read more about the SEC's "virtuous circle" of fans, money, and wins, check out Best College Sports Conference.
OK, so we all agree that, for better or worse, money plays a major role in building a top sports program.
So, which is the top college football revenue conference?
You got it - the Southeastern Conference (SEC)!
And, no, it's not close.
Here's the 2006 list:
Obviously you can see that the SEC dominates the Top 10 list of football revenue schools. The SEC has 6 of the top 10 football revenue programs. The Big Ten is second with only 2 of the top 10.
The top 15 in football profit is a bit different:
Again, however, the SEC dominates with 7 of the Top 15 in football profit. The Big Ten has 4; the Big 12 has 3.
Footnote: It is difficult to get reliable, comprehensive, numbers about college sports revenue. You can get pieces of information from places like www.ncaa.org. For instance, www.ncaa.org will tell you how much was paid out to the conferences from the BCS payout or from the NCAA college basketball tournament.
But, that's only part of the story. The individual schools and conferences have individual radio, TV, and internet contracts (so called "multi-media" income).
Then there is the tremendous revenues from licensed apparel and other fan items. And, of course, ticket sales and alumni contributions.
However, we think the information on this page accurately reflects the college sports revenue picture. The first list is based on football revenue from the 2003 - 2004 season. The second list is based on football profit from 2005 - 2006.
You notice Notre Dame is 7th in revenue but first in profit. The reason is that Notre Dame is an Independent and thus keeps all of its revenue. The other schools on the list have to share their revenue with other members of their conferences.
The lists above only reflects football revenue and profit. The information was obtained from fanblogs.com and forbes.com.
However, the vast majority of college sports revenue and virtually all profit comes from football. So, the above list is pretty accurate ranking of the top programs in both college football and college sports revenue.
One last note, Wikipedia.org says athletic departments of the SEC members consistently raise more money than any other conference. In the 2006-2007 school year, the SEC was #1, and set a record, with distributions of $122 million to its member schools.
To read more about how we see the conferences stacking up in 2010, check out 2010 College Football Conference Comparison.
The following information was just published by Fortune Magazine in its October 29, 2007 issue:
This is a ranking of college athletic departments in terms of overall sports revenue (in millions) for the year ended Summer 2006 (some ended in June '06; some in August '06). You'll see the list is generally consistent with the above list of football revenue schools.
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