Which Colleges Spend the Most on Football?

Footballs in shape of dollar signUnless you were in a semi-vegetative state last fall, you probably know that the colleges of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) dominated the top 25 football rankings. But you might be surprised to learn that the SEC didn’t have the highest conference average operating expenses. That would be the Pac 10, followed by the Big East, the Big Ten, and then the SEC.

This is according to data I downloaded from the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE). The school with the highest average operating expenses, the University of Southern California at over 7 million dollars, didn’t even make it into the top 25 rankings. Ohio State and the University of Florida both spent more than six million, with the remaining schools in the top ten in operating expenses spending at least 5 million dollars.

Now remember, these are operating expenses, they don’t say anything about revenues generated. Also, they are an average of the last five years of available data from 2007 to 2011. The reason I used an average is to minimize fluctuations from year to year that occur because of travel expenses or post-season play.

Even so, you should be aware of the little warning posted by the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) that states “Please note that valid comparisons of athletics data are possible only with study and analysis of the conditions affecting each institution. “ In other words, you might not be comparing apples to apples.

Expenses are defined as follows:

All expenses attributable to intercollegiate athletic activities. This includes appearance guarantees and options, athletically related student aid, contract services, equipment, fundraising activities, operating expenses, promotional activities, recruiting expenses, salaries and benefits, supplies, travel, and any other expenses attributable to intercollegiate athletic activities. (OPE)

What they’re trying to say is that some schools travel more because of distance, some because of playoffs but it’s all included under expenses. “Athletically related student aid” at private schools will be more than that at public schools because public schools are cheaper.?  See some of the issues?

Also, I calculated the conferences averages based on the five-year averages so?  the conference averages are averages of averages. Not necessarily the best way to go but good enough for my curiosity.

Finally, before you get all excited about some extraordinary number, please realize that it might be a mistake. Data entry errors are common in such data.

The following table shows the average operating expenses by institution and conference for 242 NCAA D1 schools.

[table id=78 /]

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