AUSTIN, Texas — If the BCS awarded a championship for making money from football, the University of Texas would win in a walk.
"We used to be No. 2 behind Ohio State. Now we've jumped out to a pretty good lead," said Ed Goble, UT's associate athletic director for business.
According to data the schools filed with the federal government, the top five money makers in college football also included Southeastern Conference powers Florida, Georgia and Alabama, which will face Texas on Jan. 7 in the BCS national title game.
The data showed that while the country was in the midst of a lingering and deep recession, revenues generated by the Longhorns football program increased by 20 percent in 2008, rising by $14.6 million to a whopping $87.6 million.
That's by far the most money ever generated by a college football program and almost $20 million more than Ohio State -- now relegated to second place -- pulled in.
"I don't really like comparisons," said Ben Jay, senior associate athletic director at Ohio State. "We're trying to do different things (than Texas)."
Ohio State fields 36 men's and women's teams on the NCAA level; Texas fields 20. Typically the only sports that take in more than they spend are men's basketball and football, with football the big money-maker.
After the 2007 season, Ohio State and four other schools were within $10 million of Texas in terms of football revenue. Not any more. Even Alabama's increase of $7.2 million in 2008 fell far short of Texas' leap of $14.6 million.
"It helps to have oil wells on your freakin' campus," joked Dan Fulks, an accounting professor at Transylvania University in Kentucky and an NCAA consultant. "Revenue is all about ticket sales, and Texas is going to sell tickets."
For the 2008 season, Texas made $33.4 million in ticket sales and student athletic fees, up from $24.6 million the previous year. "We added 9,000 seats when we finished the north end zone," Goble explained.
Texas also had seven home games in 2008, up from six in 2007. It doesn't hurt revenues either that Texas has some of the most expensive tickets in college football. Before the 2008 season, The Oregonian polled the member schools in all six BCS conferences plus Notre Dame. Texas' individual-ticket prices, ranging from $65 to $90, were topped by few schools. Michigan, for example, offered tickets ranging from $50 to $65 that season.
In contrast to the increase at UT, revenue for some other big-time programs remained relatively flat in 2008. Georgia, Auburn, Notre Dame and Michigan ($52.2 million) reported slightly less revenue on the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act forms they were required to file with the federal government in October.
Of the top 10 money-makers, six are in the Southeastern Conference, which also has produced the previous three BCS champions on the field. Florida, Alabama and LSU have joined Texas and Ohio State in topping $100 million in total athletic department revenues.
exas led the way with more than $138 million in total revenue in 2008. For the 2008 season, Texas made more than twice as much from football as Big 12 South rivals Oklahoma ($42.6 million) and Texas A&M ($38.4 million). Nebraska had football revenues of $55.2 million, good for second place in the league and just outside of the top 10 nationally.
Last year, $15.6 million of Texas' football revenue came from suites and premium seating, up $1 million from the 2007 season. Revenue from development and fund raising also increased by about $1 million, to $14.6 million. Bowl game revenue also was up about $1 million, reflecting the difference between payouts from the Holiday Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl, part of the Bowl Championship Series. Royalties, advertising and sponsorships in football grew to more than $10 million.
On the government forms, camp revenue is counted as athletic department revenue. Goble estimated that, for Texas camps for all sports, revenue was about $8 million for 2008-09.
In UT's own accounting system, the camp revenue is often not included in the athletic department budget, which is why the department might sometimes refer to its total athletic budget as $130 million. The EADA forms also do not include capital expenditures or debt service in expenses, which is why Texas' total in that category is "only" $113 million.
Goble said that for the 2008-09 school year, the athletic department had $4 million worth of construction projects, including the installation of new artificial turf in Royal-Memorial Stadium, and that debt service on previous construction was $15 million. The debt service was not included in the $113 million listed as athletic department expenses, of which $22.6 million went toward football. Major costs for all sports include coaches' salaries, scholarships and travel.
The difference between total revenues and expenses, Goble said, typically are placed in an operating reserve fund.
Fulks said that college football, as part of the entertainment industry, might be largely recession-proof. He and other experts have speculated that the recession might widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the sport.
The most recent data, however, strongly suggests the gap is also growing between the rest of the haves and the University of Texas.
John Maher writes for the Austin American-Statesman. E-mail: jmaher(at)statesman.com.