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Colleges With The Best Athletic Programs

Florida Gators
March 26th, 2015

Whether the sport is football, basketball or hockey, colleges and universities and their alumni want theirs to be the best athletic program in the country. Many athletic programs have become fundraisers, using whatever revenue is generated by their sports teams for funding new campus building constructions, expenses for maintaining compliance with laws like Title IX, and paying better salaries to deans and professors.

How Athletic Programs Generate Revenue

Athletic programs are taking measures to generate revenue so they can avoid dealing with financial-related issues. Some schools, especially those which compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level, generate more revenue than others. Teams in the FBS, erstwhile known as D-1A, don’t have playoffs that are considered full-fledged; they play bowl games after participating in conference championships.

This revenue is made possible by external factors such as strong support from alumni who donate generously, ticket sales, and other merchandise directly related to the teams, and, depending on the fan base size of the a team, even TV contracts. Schools consider the maintenance of their athletic programs critical because these keep the institution operational.

Differences in Rankings

Ranking athletic programs of colleges is dependent on who ranks them. The top ten list of U.S. New and World Report (USNWR), for instance, will differ from that of Best Athletics of the website Niche.com, which ranks colleges based on eight statistics as well as over 200,000 opinions on athletics from about 75,000 students. High rankings indicate the significant and positive role that athletics play in students’ lives.

Playing in top athletic conferences and competing for national championships are also indicative of a college having a quality athletic program, as far as Best Athletics is concerned, using data sourced from NCAA records of attendance, survey responses on athletics, and the Department of Education. Let’s take a look at the rankings from Best Athletics in (in ascending order):

The University of Florida in Gainesville holds the number one spot for Best Athletics followed by the Universities of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and Connecticut (Storrs), Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge), Ohio State University (Columbus), the Universities of Texas (Austin), South Carolina (Columbia), Kentucky (Lexington-Fayette), and California-Los Angeles (UCLA).

The University of Texas had $163.3 million generated from revenue in 2013 which was used for operations in their athletic department, not to mention having a new contract with ESPN for its own Longhorn Network on TV. Two years ago, the University of Florida made $46 million from alumni and other stakeholders’ donations and continues to receive $4.5 million from the state government.

Athletic programs in colleges and universities are bolstered by football, the undisputed king when it comes to college sports. Ohio State University’s famous football program obtained $142 million in generated revenue two years ago mainly because of the various sources for it: $51 million from alumni and other donations, $44 million from advertising, merchandise and licensing contracts.

The University of Alabama’s athletic program is one of the most profitable in the whole U.S. with a surplus increase recorded at $8.9 million from 2012. The school has reported yearly surpluses to the tune of $106.5 million in total since 2006. Two years ago, the school’s athletic program spent $13.3 million on scholarships, and $42.2 million in compensation for coaches, support staff, and administrators.


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