SALT LAKE CITY — Which Utah sports franchise is the most profitable? Not the NBA's Utah Jazz, the beehive state's only top-tier professional franchise.
According the U.S. Department of Education, Brigham Young University's football team is the most profitable team in the state. BYU brought in $22.4 million in the 2012 season, posting a $7.41 million profit.
Meanwhile, the Runnin' Utes are also runnin' all the way to the bank. Utah's football team posted $20.7 million in revenue and a $5.9 million profit in 2012.
Even the Utah State Aggies, a team with historically poor earnings in football, posted a profit this past year. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Utah State had football revenue of $5,881,832 and football expenses of $5,881,831 to tally a total profit of $1.
Conversely, the Utah Jazz earned $120 million in revenue but posted a $16.4 million loss, according to Forbes.
According to The Wall Street Journal, some top-tier college football programs' total values are comparable to that of professional franchises. The teams' total value takes into account "each program's revenues and expenses and made cash-flow adjustments, risk assessments and growth projections for each school."
The University of Texas is ranked first with a total value of $761.7 million while the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, which ranked last in value among NFL franchises, sold in 2011 for approximately $760 million. However, UT's $71.2 million profit would rank it fourth among NFL teams behind only the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Washington Redskins.
While professional teams generate more total revenue than most college teams by a wide margin, player salaries and other operating expenses that colleges don't incur carve away at profit margins.
Increased operating expenses for professional franchises, including rising player salaries, have largely offset the record TV and advertising contracts signed by professional franchises. Unlike the NBA, NFL and MLB, the NHL lacks a major television deal and depends heavily on ticket sales to generate revenue. According to Forbes, 13 of the league's 29 franchises were operating at a loss. As of last season, NHL players received 57 percent of the league's total revenue with the owners lobbying to lower that total to as little as 46 percent.
In terms of profit, Utah State is ahead of two NFL franchises, both of which posted losses this season: the Oakland Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Utes beat those franchises in addition to the Detroit Lions, and the Cougars additionally beat the St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings.
However, to put those numbers in perspective, both operating costs and revenue of college programs are much, much lower than the revenue and costs of professional francishes.
BYU's $7.41 million profit was $2.5 million less than the New York Yankees, whose value of $1.85 billion makes it one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world.
Not all college sports programs are created equal. Top football programs such as at the University of Texas and Ohio State are so profitable that they bankroll their entire athletic departments. Other universities may have one or two profitable programs, but lose money on athletics as a whole.
According to USA Today’s annual survey of sports spending, just 22 of 227 public universities in NCAA Division I turned a profit in 2011.
“What seems to be happening all too often nationwide is that the breadth and depth of athletic departments are being cut. It’s becoming the victim of a financial need to feed this commercial beast," said John Nichols, co-chairman of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics in an interview with the Washington Post.
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