Inside the Numbers: 2017 Power 5 Finances

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Editor’s Note: This is the second year that we have written an article recapping Power 5 finances in college athletics. (Here’s last year’s article.)

The USA Today maintains a complete, detailed database of college athletics financial data that they update yearly in mid/late July with financial figures from the previous academic year. The July 2018 update, for example, includes 2016-17 academic year data. Digging into the data is an interesting exercise, and this is our look at 2017 finances.

Notes About 2017 Power 5 Finances Data

The USA Today maintains a huge database of all schools that publicly report revenue and expenses. First, here’s a link to the database:

And here’s a link to their methodology:

This one paragraph from the Methodology link concisely explains the data: “The data, updated for 2017, are based on the revenue and expense reports collected from more than 225 public schools in the NCAA’s Division I that have an obligation to release the data (the NCAA does not release the data publicly). The others are private or are covered under a state exemption.”

The Drive for 25

Sponsored by the Drive for 25: The Hokie Club’s Drive for 25 initiative seeks to increase membership in the Hokie Club to 25,000 members in order to provide student-athletes with scholarships for a Virginia Tech education, as well as the resources necessary to compete athletically at the highest levels.Click here to join us today!

Who’s Included in the USA Today NCAA Finances Database, and Who’s Not

In short, public universities are included in the database, and private universities are not. There are also a few public schools that have exemptions from reporting requirements, and are thus not included. Pittsburgh is one example I can think of, though there may be more.

The database includes 230 schools, but for purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the Power 5 conferences: The ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. We lump Notre Dame in there as well, but they’re private, so they don’t report.

Conf.MembersSchools Included
In Report
Schools Not
ACC158Boston College, Duke,
Miami, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh,
Syracuse, Wake Forest
Big 12108Baylor, TCU
Big Ten1413Northwestern
PAC 121210Stanford, USC

Note that seven of the ACC’s 15 schools aren’t included in the database. That’s more than all other Power 5 conferences combined. So this data paints a clearer picture of the Big Ten (13 of 14 schools included) and SEC (13 of 14) than it does other conferences, particularly the ACC (8 of 15). So there’s some apples-to-oranges stuff going on here, due to incomplete data.

2017 Power 5 Finances, All In One Table

Here’s a listing of Power 5 finances for all schools in one table, ranked by total revenue (sort of; see the note after the table).

2017 Power 5 Finances (per USA Today data)

1TexasBig 12$214,830,647$207,022,323$7,808,324
2Texas A&MSEC$211,960,034$146,546,229$65,413,805
3Ohio StateBig Ten$185,409,602$173,507,435$11,902,167
4MichiganBig Ten$185,173,187$175,425,392$9,747,795
7OklahomaBig 12$155,238,481$132,910,780$22,327,701
13Florida StateACC$144,514,413$143,373,261$1,141,152
14Penn StateBig Ten$144,017,055$138,724,055$5,293,000
15WisconsinBig Ten$143,420,668$142,930,591$490,077
16South CarolinaSEC$136,032,845$129,317,382$6,715,463
18IowaBig Ten$130,681,467$128,869,211$1,812,256
21Michigan StateBig Ten$126,021,377$117,506,272$8,515,105
23NebraskaBig Ten$120,205,090$112,571,632$7,633,458
25MinnesotaBig Ten$116,376,862$114,201,678$2,175,184
27West VirginiaBig 12$110,565,870$89,196,193$21,369,677
28IndianaBig Ten$106,139,192$106,131,819$7,373
30Arizona StatePac-12$101,579,860$98,825,395$2,754,465
31Mississippi StateSEC$100,062,237$86,351,432$13,710,805
33IllinoisBig Ten$97,447,731$100,739,817($3,292,086)
34RutgersBig Ten$96,883,027$99,193,280($2,310,253)
35North CarolinaACC$96,551,626$96,540,823$10,803
36KansasBig 12$95,251,461$94,709,233$542,228
37MarylandBig Ten$94,881,357$94,796,897$84,460
40Oklahoma StateBig 12$91,644,865$89,833,094$1,811,771
43Texas TechBig 12$88,804,476$86,984,083$1,820,393
44Virginia TechACC$87,427,526$90,716,423($3,288,897)
45Kansas StateBig 12$86,081,528$73,970,354$12,111,174
46PurdueBig Ten$84,841,133$85,709,495($868,362)
47North Carolina StateACC$83,741,572$86,924,779($3,183,207)
50Iowa StateBig 12$82,659,447$82,565,176$94,271
51Georgia TechACC$81,762,024$84,852,123($3,090,099)
52Oregon StatePac-12$78,959,875$82,730,626($3,770,751)
53Washington StatePac-12$64,294,520$71,801,820($7,507,300)

Note: There are 52 schools in the table, but the rankings go to 53. This is because one non-Power 5 school is included in the top 53 (but not included in the table): No. 49 UConn (AAC), $83.3 million.

The Drive for 25

The previous year (FY 2016), Virginia Tech ranked No. 41 among all Power 5 schools in athletics revenue, and this year, the Hokies slip to No. 44. But there’s a caveat. Drilling down into the details, Virginia Tech’s contributions are reported as $15.8 million, yet we know that in 2016-17, the Hokie Club took in about $33 million in donations. That’s a difference of $17.2 million, and if reported, that would increase Virginia Tech’s total revenue to $104.6 million, vaulting the Hokies all the way to No. 29.

As Randy Jones has told us repeatedly in his annual financial reports, contributions are not reported until applied (spent). So the contribution amounts given in official financial reports are pretty much never going to match the donation figures you read in Hokie Club press releases.

In the next couple of years or so, Virginia Tech will embark on a $4.5 million expansion of the Merryman Center weight room and will also construct a $16.5 million Student-Athlete Performance Center, and Hokie Club funds will be spent on those projects at that time. Look for Virginia Tech’s reported contributions, and thus revenue, to jump considerably at that time, especially if both projects are built in the same fiscal year.

Here’s a look at average revenue, expenses, and profit/loss per conference:

2016-17 Revenue/Expenses, Per-school Average
ConferenceAve. RevenueAve. ExpensesProfit/Loss
SEC$142.0 million$124.7 million$17.3 million
Big Ten$125.5 million$122.3 million$3.2 million
Big 12$115.6 million$107.1 million$8.5 million
ACC$102.5 million$104.0 million(-$1.5 million)
Pac 12$98.3 million$97.2 million$1.1 million

Breaking Down the Data

The USA Today data contains breakdowns per school for the following revenue items:

  • Ticket Sales
  • Contributions
  • Rights/Licensing
  • Student Fees
  • School Funds

We’ve got a monstrous table containing all that detail for each school, but it’s so big that we had to put it on its own separate page, with wider margins. The neat thing about the master data table is that it includes all the categories listed above, and you can sort the table by multiple column headings.

To see the large master data table on its own page, click here.

Here’s where the Hokies rank in each of those categories listed above — remember, Virginia Tech is No. 44 among 52 listed schools in total revenue.

  • Ticket Sales – $17.3 million, No. 35
  • Contributions – $15.8 million, No. 43
  • Rights/Licensing – $36.6 million, No. 48
  • Student Fees – $8.9 million, No. 5
  • School Funds – $2,663, No. 33 (Nos. 35 onward are $0)

Ticket sales are a relative bright spot for the Hokies, and their highest-ranking source of revenue (other than student fees, which we’ll get to in a moment).

If Virginia Tech’s full take of $33 million in Hokie Club donations were reported, Tech would be ranked No. 19 in that category.

As for (media) Rights and Licensing, insert an ACC Network rant here. That ground is well-covered, and we’ll add even more excruciating detail in a moment.

It’s very interesting to break down each of those categories by conference, so we’ll do that next.

Ticket Sales

Here are the top ten schools in ticket sales for FY2017 (2016 football season, 2016-17 basketball season):

  • Texas (Big 12): $72.4 million*
  • Ohio State (Big Ten): $61.5 million*
  • Michigan (Big Ten): $55.3  million**
  • Texas A&M (SEC): $47.4 million**
  • Oklahoma (Big 12): $42.1 million*
  • LSU (SEC): $41.8 million**
  • Arkansas (SEC): $40.8 million
  • Alabama (SEC): $37.6 million*
  • Nebraska (Big Ten): $37.3 million*
  • Tennessee (SEC): $36.8  million*
  • No. 35: Virginia Tech $17.3 million

* 7 home football games (plus, in some cases, a neutral site game)
** 8 home football games  (plus, in some cases, a neutral site game)

That’s five SEC schools, three Big Ten schools, and two Big 12 schools in the top ten.

Here are the average ticket sales for each of the Power 5 conferences:

2016-17 Ticket Sales, Per-school Average
ConferenceAve. Tix SalesMaxMin
SEC$31.5 millionTexas A&M ($47.5m)Miss. State ($15.8m)
Big Ten$27.9 millionOhio State ($61.6m)Purdue ($9.2m)
Big 12$26.9 millionTexas ($72.5m)Texas Tech ($12m)
ACC$20.9 millionLouisville ($29.5m)GT ($11.8m)
Pac 12$16.6 millionOregon ($26.5m)Wash. State ($7.6m)


Here are the top ten in donations for FY2017. This is a class of revenue that can swing wildly from year to year, as noted above.

  • Texas A&M (SEC): $93.1 million
  • Oregon (Pac 12): $55.7 million
  • Georgia (SEC): $54.8 million
  • Texas (Big 12): $46.0 million
  • Oklahoma (Big 12): $45.5 million
  • Florida (SEC): $45.1 million
  • Florida State (ACC): $41.5 million
  • Louisville (ACC): $39.3 million
  • Michigan (Big Ten): $38.9 million
  • South Carolina (SEC): $38.8 million
  • No. 43 Virginia Tech: $15.8 million

That’s a lot of cheese being thrown around. Four SEC schools, two ACC schools, two Big 12 schools, and just one Pac 12 and Big Ten school each.

If the Hokies had reported their full $33 million in donations, Tech would have ranked No. 19 out of 52 schools reporting.

Here are the average donations for each of the Power 5 conferences:

2016-17 Contributions, Per-school Average
ConferenceAve. ContributionsMaxMin
SEC$38.3 millionTexas A&M ($93.1m)Kentucky ($18.7m)
Big 12$28.8 millionTexas ($46.0m)OK State ($15.6m)
ACC$25.5 millionFSU ($41.5m)GT ($11.2m)
Big Ten$25.1 millionMichigan ($38.9m)Rutgers ($8.1m)
Pac 12$17.3 millionOregon ($55.7m)Wash. State ($8.2m)

The surprise there is the Big Ten being listed fourth, but — repeat after me — donations gyrate wildly from year to year. Also strange is seeing T. Boone Pickens U., Oklahoma State, listed last in the Big 12 with $15.8 million in donations. Just three years ago (FY 2014), their donations were listed at $37 million, and back in 2006, they reported a cool $211 million in donations — T. Boone money being spent on facilities, no doubt. The truth is that OK State can tap all kinds of money whenever they need it.


Grab a box of tissues, because this will bring you to tears. This category includes all kinds of revenue, such as “…revenue for athletics from radio and television broadcasts, Internet and e-commerce rights received from institution-negotiated contracts, the NCAA and conference revenue sharing arrangements; and revenue from corporate sponsorships, licensing, sales of advertisements, trademarks and royalties.”

Lately, this revenue has been pumped up for certain schools due to money flowing in from conference network deals — the Big Ten Network and the SEC Network — as well as ever-increasing media rights and even Texas’ Longhorn Network.

Speaking of Texas, here are the top ten schools in rights/licensing income:

  • Texas (Big 12): $86.2 million
  • Wisconsin (Big Ten): $72.9 million
  • Kentucky (SEC): $72.7 million
  • Michigan (Big Ten): $72.4 million
  • Alabama (SEC): $68.8 million
  • Ohio State (Big Ten): $67.2 million
  • Tennessee (SEC): $64.6 million
  • Auburn (SEC): $64.2 million
  • Florida (SEC): $63.9 million
  • LSU (SEC): $62.2 million
  • No. 48 Virginia Tech: $36.6 million

That’s Texas, the outlier with its own network, followed by three Big Ten schools and six SEC schools.

Some quick notes:

  • 9 of the top 13 schools are SEC schools.
  • Out of the top 20 schools, 11 are SEC and 7 are Big Ten.
  • Eight of the bottom 12 schools are ACC schools.

Once Rutgers, the last-place school overall (see the table below), starts receiving a full Big Ten media share, they’ll vault past all the ACC schools around them and out of the bottom 12.

I could go on and on, but you get my point. The ACC, as we all know, lags behind all other P5 conferences in rights/licensing revenue, due in large part to their inability to put together a network. Here are the averages by conference:

2016-17 Rights/Licensing Revenue, Per-school Average
SEC$61.0 millionKentucky ($72.7m)Missouri ($50.1m)
Big Ten$55.3 millionWisconsin ($72.9m)Rutgers ($25.4m)
Big 12$50.8 millionTexas ($86.2m)WVU ($42.5m)
Pac 12$46.2 millionOregon ($54.2m)Wash. State ($38.0m)
ACC$37.7 millionLouisville ($41.7m)GT ($35.1m)

Student Fees

When you dig down into student fees, you discover some interesting things.

The USA Today data goes back to 2005, and since 2005, eight schools that once reported income from student athletic fees no longer do so: Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Clemson, Indiana, and Mississippi State.

Two schools that did not report revenue from student athletic fees now do: Arizona State and Tennessee. The Vols reported $0 in 2005, but have reported exactly $1 million every year since then. 

Drilling down into the numbers shows yet more weakness from the ACC, whose schools make more on average from student fees than any other conference, by a long shot.

Here are the top ten schools in student fee revenue:

  • Virginia (ACC): $13.9 million
  • Maryland (Big Ten): $12.0 million
  • Rutgers (Big Ten): $11.8 million
  • Arizona State (Pac 12): $10.8 million
  • No. 5 Virginia Tech (ACC): $8.9 million
  • Florida State (ACC): $8.4 million
  • UNC (ACC): $7.0 million
  • NC State (ACC): $6.6 million
  • Utah (Pac 12): $6.1 million
  • Georgia Tech (ACC): $5.4 million

Six of the top ten schools in student athletic fee revenue are from the ACC.

Here is average student fee revenue by conference:

2016-17 Student Fees, Per-school Average
ConferenceAve. Student FeesMaxMin
ACC$6.5 millionVirginia ($13.9m)Clemson ($0)
Pac 12$2.6 millionAZ State ($10.8m)Three with $0
Big Ten$2.1 millionMaryland ($12.0m)Nine with $0
Big 12$1.75 millionWVU ($4.1m)Two with $0
SEC$1.0 millionAuburn ($4.4m)Seven with $0

Some notes:

Seven of eight ACC schools report student fee revenue. Only Clemson doesn’t report any revenue from student fees.

In the Pac 12, Arizona State reported $0 from 2005-2014, but has reported about $10 million each year since then. My guess is, that’s just a change in accounting, not a sudden implementation of huge student athletic fees.

The Big Ten averages are skewed greatly by Maryland ($12 million) and Rutgers ($11.8 million). Illinois is third with just $3.2 million, and nine of 13 Big Ten schools report $0.

School Funds

This is a broad category that “includes both direct and indirect support from the university, including state funds, tuition, tuition waivers etc., as well as federal Work Study amounts for student workers employed by athletics department. It also includes the value of university-provided support such as administrative services, facilities and grounds maintenance, security, risk management, utilities, depreciation and debt service that is not charged to the athletics department.”

34 out of 52 schools report school funds amounts above zero, but the bottom two, No. 33 Virginia Tech ($2,663) and No. 34 NC State ($1,384) are negligible.

Here are the schools reporting the top ten highest amounts of school funds revenue, and it’s not a surprise to see who tops the list.

  • Rutgers (Big Ten): $21.3 million
  • Minnesota (Big Ten): $14.8 million
  • Arizona State (Pac 12): $11.0 million
  • Colorado (Pac 12): $10.9 million
  • Arizona (Pac 12): $10.0 million
  • Wisconsin (Big Ten): $9.2 million
  • Alabama (SEC): $8.4 million
  • Utah (Pac 12): $6.4 million
  • Clemson (ACC): $5.5 million
  • Louisville (ACC): $5.4 million

Seeing Clemson with $0 student fee revenue and $5.5 million school funds revenue makes me wonder if that’s just an accounting quirk, and the “school funds” are Clemson’s version of student fee revenue.

Rutgers is a mess. They rank last in the Big Ten in Contributions, Rights/Licensing, next to last in Ticket Sales, second in Student Fees, and first in School Funds. Their $96.8 million in revenue, which sounds impressive, includes $33.1 million from their students and their school. By contrast, Virginia Tech’s $87.4 million in revenue includes just $8.8 million from the students and school.

Here’s the average school funds per university, by conference.

2016-17 School Funds, Per-school Average
ConferenceAve. School FundsMaxMin
Pac 12$5.4 millionAZ State ($11.0m)UCLA ($60,000)
Big Ten$4.0 millionRutgers ($21.3m)Four with $0
ACC$1.9 millionClemson ($5.5m)Two with $0
SEC$1.7 millionAlabama ($8.4m)Six with $0
Big 12$518,000Texas Tech ($2.5m)Six with $0


If you’re still with me, then you’re either an accountant or a non-accounting numbers wonk. Thank you for reading this far.

There aren’t really any over-arching conclusions to draw here. We know intuitively that the SEC and Big Ten in particular, with their huge stadiums, alumni bases, and fat TV contracts, make a lot of money. This just puts actual figures on it.

As I wrote last year, most of the factors that make Virginia Tech rank No. 44 out of 52 reporting schools in revenue are beyond fans’ control, but ticket sales and Hokie Club donations are two areas in which fans can make a difference. By buying tickets and joining the Drive for 25, fans can give Virginia Tech a boost.

Remember, to really drill down into all the numbers, check out our master 2017 Power 5 Finances master data table, which you can sort a lot of different ways to crunch the data.


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22 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I seem to remember a comment from then AD Weaver that a VT move to the SEC would result in a .500 record in football at best. I also remember a statement from the SEC commish that the SEC was not seeking expansion (but that didn’t mean the SEC wouldn’t consider a school that is interested in bolting for the SEC). I think Weaver and the VT admin felt the ACC was a much better fit for VT than the SEC.

    1. Looking at these numbers they might not have had a choice. Either move to the B1G and take that money or severely cut back athletics.

      On a side note when TV/media revenue starts to dry up will schools start cutting back on athletics bigly?

  2. Ticket Sales, how many of the top 10 schools have a 90,000 plus stadiums? Stadium size also impacts contributions (more seats license). It is hard to compare revenue a 60,000 seat stadium school with a 100,000 seat stadium. Maybe VT is doing better than the numbers show.

  3. My takeaway from this: VT punches WAY above its weight in the two main sports (football and men’s basketball). Based on where Tech stands financially on average (roughly just above 50th), it’s amazing that we win as much as we do. You can chalk that up to great coaching and recruiting. The flip side, though: we have a VERY steep climb to be a legit national title contender in either sport. The other schools above us are just extremely well funded in comparison, some almost embarrassingly so (Texas, A&M, etc).

    1. Don’t forget Whit, a la great hires and being more willing to invest at a loss for gains in the future!

  4. Really great article, thanks for doing the research. I think this expresses why VT needed a Michael Vick and a Corey Moore on the same team in order to make a National Championship appearance. And a schedule that year that was very favorable. The big schools really separate themselves with the money, FSU. Let’s go to work with our lunch pail defense and win 11!

  5. An interesting thing to know would be where VT and the ACC would rank based on projected income from the network (if it really starts).

      1. wow – the “swofford stuck in the mud” effect is totally underfunding! in other words we and the acc have been out-profited for 8+ years due to poor leadership; not only can we never match the B10 and eSpnEC income streams, but we’re starting so far behind we’ll never close the gap.
        Dr Sands: it’s time to put your foot down and the acc’s self-obsessed-piker-commish out – with no golden parachute, please.

  6. Thank you for the eye opening post and information. Long before I was ever a member of TSL I heard rumblings about us maybe getting an offer from the SEC. I have sources that tell me rumbling and goings on at VT through the years so don’t shoot the messenger but they said that was an offer and the powers that he wanted no part of it. I realize I look at it from a fan standpoint, but I would have loved to see us in the SEC Vs ACC. I would much rather go see us play the Alabama’s, Georgia’s, Tennessee’s, Florida’s etc etc than UNC, Wake, Duke, and even Virginia and not only the revenue but I think it would have elevated our recruiting, facilities, not that they are bad. But I just believe since we are a football school, it would have made a huge difference in our overall sports programs, especially Olympic sports less a wrestling program. Call me crazy but I am not the only fan that would have loved to have seen that. I am not a fan of our ACC comish and feel like he lacks vision and leadership to grow our conference. But the just MHO. Go Hokies

    1. Yep. The power structure at VT — meaning the academic/administrative side of the house, not the athletic side — wants/wanted to be a part of the ACC and rub elbows with other ACC schools, NOT the SEC.

    2. It’s not just the commissioner at play…it’s the other member schools. Never do you hear about the member schools collectively begging the conference to do things, but Swofford saying “Thanks, but no.” Many of the member schools of the ACC are just stuck in the yesteryears of college athletics (founding colonies, yay!) and have been inept to see the potential to capitalize on growing trends, thus being forced to play catch-up in an ever escalating arms race of collegiate revenue sports.

    3. But how would you like a 7-5 or 8-4 football record most years, with only very occasional appearances in the SEC conference championship game? True that basketball would probably get more wins in the SEC. I would miss the annual drubbing of the Hoos in football and some of the rivalry games, such as the Canes.

  7. I’m really glad that you do this and I’m not an accountant or a numbers wonk. But I do like to see this business side of college sports from time to time. Your hard work is appreciated here.

  8. This is great stuff, Will, thanks!

    It would be interesting to see the total revenues (ticket sales) and total expenses numbers isolated for FB and Men’s BB to see how the Hokies compare in terms of revenue generation and spending versus P5 and ACC competitors. I have heard that the Hokies’ numbers are better in comparison when you isolate those two sports but haven’t seen the hard data.

    I know it’s not apple to apples like the numbers reported above and it would take a lot of work to do so not asking for it – just wondering if you have a perspective?

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