In case you didn’t know, there is a clear correlation between success in college sports — especially in the recruiting game — and the money generated by a university’s athletic department. It doesn’t necessarily matter which came first. If a school’s team wins, then the money will come in. And if the money comes in, then the programs are more likely to find themselves in a position to be victorious. It’s the classic “chicken and egg” scenario of college athletics. Which universities are in the most prosperous situations? We’re glad you asked.
USA Today — using financial data from the 2014-15 fiscal year — has released its ranking of colleges, based solely on the total revenue generated by their athletic departments. It should come as no surprise that this list features a lot of familiar faces. These are big-time universities, with major athletic programs and super devoted fan bases. However, what may throw you for the biggest loop is the order in which these colleges sit. This is where things get interesting.
Of course, it should be noted that these rankings only consist of public schools, as they are the only colleges required to release their figures. Still, for the most part, all the big players are in the mix. Please, for your own sake, read this while sitting down. The amount of money generated by some of these schools is so high that it may actually knock you off your feet. With that, here’s a look at the seven richest athletic departments in college sports.
7. LSU Tigers
Total Revenue: $138,642,237
Total Expenses: $121,947,775
Not only did the total expenses of the LSU athletic department decrease from $122.9 million in 2014 to $121.9 million in 2015, but the school’s total revenue went up as well. What was once $133.7 million (in 2014) has since become $138.6 million (in 2015). LSU reached this total by receiving $41.8 million from ticket sales, $39.5 million from contributions, $49.9 million from rights/licensing, and $7.5 million from other areas.
6. Florida Gators
Total Revenue: $147,105,242
Total Expenses: $125,384,443
Success in college athletics has been nothing new for the Florida Gators. This time, however, it’s all about the money. In 2015, on the back of $58.1 million in contributions, $24.3 million in ticket sales, $55.5 million from rights/licensing, and $4.9 million from other areas, the university’s athletic department pulled in a cool $147.1 million in total revenue. Something tells us that with a haul like this, continued prosperity on the field is sure to follow.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide
Total Revenue: $148,911,674
Total Expenses: $132,354,913
You can’t talk about wealthy college athletic departments and not have Alabama as part of the discussion. That’s simply the beauty that comes with having Nick Saban as a football coach and winning national championships. If you succeed on the gridiron in college, you can bet the money will soon follow.
In 2015, the Crimson Tide athletic department amassed a little over $148.9 million in total revenue. The most money came from rights/licensing ($56.6 million) but athletics also made $39.2 million in ticket sales, $29.4 million in contributions, and $15.8 million from other areas. On top of that, the athletic department received roughly $7.9 million from school funds.
4. Michigan Wolverines
Total Revenue: $152,477,026
Total Expenses: $151,144,964
The University of Michigan isn’t the wealthiest athletic department in the Big Ten Conference, but it’s definitely in the top two. Thanks to $46.4 million from ticket sales, $35.7 million from contributions, $58.1 million from rights/licensing, $263,345 from school funds, and just under $12 million from other areas, the Wolverines’ athletic department pulled in $152,477,026 in total revenue in 2015. That’s a solid take right there. And because of that, you know who’s smiling? This guy.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
Total Revenue: $167,166,065
Total Expenses: $154,033,208
The Ohio State Buckeyes have more going for them than simply residing in the top college sports town in the country. They also boast a rich athletic program — the richest in the Big Ten, in fact. With a total operating revenue of around $167.2 million, Ohio State had an extremely lucrative 2015. This total came as a result of $63.1 million in ticket sales, $33 million in contributions, $57.1 million from rights/licensing, $75,470 in school funds, and $13.8 million in other areas.
2. Texas Longhorns
Total Revenue: $183,521,028
Total Expenses: $173,248,133
In regard to money generated by athletic departments, the Texas Longhorns are accustomed to finishing in the top position. However, in 2015, all this university did was lead the land in total expenses — just over $173.2 million. Yet, there is no shame in coming in second place here, especially if that means the school brought in roughly $183.5 million.
Texas made $63.3 million in ticket sales, $44.3 million from contributions, $62.9 from rights/licensing, and $13.1 million from other areas. With this amount of money in the athletic department war chest, we don’t see any reason why the Texas Longhorns won’t hook their opponents in the near future.
1. Texas A&M Aggies
Total Revenue: $192,608,876
Total Expenses: $109,313,651
We guess it’s true what they say: Everything is bigger in Texas.
Of course, this time around it’s Texas A&M doing the heavy lifting. In 2015, the Aggies’ athletic department proved to be the wealthiest in the land, pulling in a whopping $192,608,876. That’s what happens when you generate $45.8 million from ticket sales, $92.1 million from contributions, $47 million from rights/licensing, and $7.7 million from other areas. For head football coach Kevin Sumlin, with a ton of bank at his disposal, we guess there’s only one thing left to do: win.
Information courtesy of USA Today.
To see the full list of USA Today’s college rankings, based on athletic department revenue, click here.