Which College Basketball teams are the Most Valuable?
College sports tries to paint themselves as a non-profit organization geared toward helping the student-athletes. That is a wonderful concept if you also believe in the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny. In the real world, they are a business, a big money business. Having one or two profitable athletic teams can help pay for all of a university’s athletic programs. College basketball is one of those sports that can generate money for a school, turn a profit and hopefully see that money fund other sports at a university.
Forbes Magazine once against crunched the numbers and came up with the Top 20 Most Valuable College Basketball programs. Of course, you can’t buy a college basketball program. So the Forbes’ list put a value on the basketball program by determining how much revenue it generations for its school, their athletic department and the conference they are affiliated with. The numbers shown are through the 2012-13 season, the last complete season financial data is available for.
20. Arkansas Razorbacks — Team value $11 Million, Profit $7.3 Million.
Despite not being in the NCAA Tournament since 2008, this Southeastern Conference school still turns a profit for their athletic department.
19. Minnesota Golden Gophers — Team value $11.6 Million, Profit $7.5 Million.
Paying for academic counseling for student-athletes costs this school $875,000, money well spent. If you are going to turn a profit, giving it back to the athletes would be a wise investment.
18. Maryland Terrapins — Team value $11.9 Million, Profit $7.8 Million.
The Terrapins basketball team generates almost as much of a profit as the schools football team. That is something rarely seen in a school from a major conference. Maryland has played its last basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference and heads to the Big Ten next season. The move was forced in no small part to recent financial troubles that saw Maryland discontinue seven athletic programs. The move and a pending lawsuit against the ACC might soon offer the school a financial boost.
17. Xavier Musketeers — Team value $13.4 Million, Profit $7.3 Million.
Forbes started doing their team valuations in 2008. Every year Xavier has been in the Top 20. This shows the school is managing their financials well considering they were in the Atlantic 10 Conference for all those years. Joining the Big East Conference this year should only help their ranking; however losing their “First Four” game to North Carolina State probably hurt slightly.
16. Texas Longhorns — Team value $13.6 Million, Profit $7.9 Million.
Long known as a football powerhouse, the loyal fan base of Texas is also supportive of the basketball program. Being in the NCAA Tournament this March can only help the Longhorns maintain their place on the list and a deep run could only be that much more beneficial. Of the nearly $8 Million in profit generated, $5.5 Million of it went toward academics at Texas.
15. Tennessee Volunteers — Team value $14.1 Million, Profit $8.5 Million.
Head coach Cuonzo Martin got the Volunteers back to the tournament for the first time since 2010, when they reached the Elite Eight. Having already won two games in this year’s tournament will surely help their value to the school and their conference. In addition to the profit they turn for their school, Tennessee had earned the Southeastern Conference over $2 Million in the last six years.
14. Michigan Wolverines — Team value $14.2 Million, Profit $8.5 Million.
Reaching the Tournament’s final game last year returned Michigan to this list. It was the first time the school had made it past the Sweet 16 since 1994. They experienced a $5 Million increase in revenues from ticket sales, contributions and conference distribution. With a #2 Seed in this year’s tournament, they should be set up to continue their financial windfall.
13. Illinois Fighting Illini — Team value $15.8 Million, Profit $10.3 Million.
The first school on our list with an eight figure profit margin is another Big Ten Conference school. Illinois did not make this year’s tournament field. The two games played by head coach John Croce in his first year with the Fighting Illini will earn his conference $3 Million over six years.
12. North Carolina State Wolfpack — Team value $17 Million, Profit $11.3 Million.
North Carolina loves their college basketball and these numbers prove it. The Wolfpack made over $1 Million in licensing revenue for the first time in school history. They inked a four year, $7 Million apparel deal with Adidas and have a media rights deal that will bring the school on average almost $5 Million per season. It is no wonder this school saw the value of their basketball team jump 30% from two years ago to last year. Sadly, all this success did not teach the team how to make their foul shots and saw them give up a lead in their Thursday night game.
11. Michigan State Spartans — Team value $17.1 Million, Profit $9.1 Million.
Consistency is what Tom Izzo has put out on the basketball court for Michigan State. In his 19 seasons, the squad has made 11 Sweet 16 appearances and six trips to the Final Four. With everyone in the world seemingly picking the Spartans to win this year’s tournament, expect the school to continue their financial success as well. Last year Michigan State were tied for second when they earned a $5 Million payout from their tournament success.
10. Duke Blue Devils — Team value $18.9 Million, Profit $10.6 Million.
The Blue Devils are in the top six in basketball revenues. This offsets being second in expenses; they are only one of two schools to spend over $15 Million on their basketball team. Only seven schools spend over $10 Million and none of them reached over the $14 Million mark. Perhaps Duke’s loss Friday afternoon to the Mercer Bears was only a cost cutting measure?
9. Syracuse Orange — Team value $21 Million, Profit $12.3 Million.
We are turning down the expensive side of the Monopoly Board with the $20 Million plus schools. Four of the last five years Syracuse has reached the Sweet 16 or beyond. Their success generated over $4 Million in payout for their old Big East Conference. Now in the Atlantic Coast Conference, they have no reason stop the gravy train now. The Orange spends more on basketball scholarships than any other private school on this list not named Duke.
8. Wisconsin Badgers — Team value $21.1 Million, Profit $12.7 Million.
Being in the tournament field is important to make the big money on the court and from your sponsors and donors. Wisconsin has made every March Madness since 1998; however, they only have one Final Four appearance in that time. Perhaps this is the year to break through for Bo Ryan.
7. Ohio State Buckeyes — Team value $22.9 Million, Profit $13.5 Million.
The only school with both their basketball and baseball teams in the Top Ten in value are the Buckeyes. Their football team is valued at $83 Million and was ranked ninth. Ohio State had a tough start, and quick ending to this year’s tournament, when they lost to in state baby brother Dayton. The athletic department contributed $5 Million toward academic programs last year.
6. Arizona Wildcats — Team value $25.2 Million, Profit $16.1 Million.
The only team from the Pac-12 Conference on the list are the Wildcats. Seeing a near 30% increase in their value over the prior year helps them rank high on this list. Losing only three game and owning a #1 Seed in this year’s tournament should keep Arizona on this list next year as well. A new television deal for the conference should help them keep their profit margin strong as well.
5. Indiana Hoosiers — Team value $25.4 Million, Profit $16.9 Million.
This year was tough for Hoosier Nation. Not getting a berth in the NCAA tournament or even the NIT does not happen all that often for this team of basketball royalty. Since Forbes started their ranking in 2008, Indiana has always made the top six. The last two seasons saw the Hoosiers in the Sweet 16 which benefited the Big Ten Conference to the tune of almost $2 Million. It also increased their teams value to the school by 17%.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels. Team value $25.7 Million, Profit $14.8 Million.
This team saw a 22% decline in their value; however, it was easily explained. They hosted two less home games in the 2012-13 season, which is an obvious loss of ticket revenues. They also played in the Carrier Classic when they defeated Michigan State; the win was good on the court, but cost them on the bottom line of their financial statement.
3. Kentucky Wildcats — Team Value $32.5 Million, Profit $20.4 Million.
Still reaping the benefits of their 2012 National Championship keeps the Wildcats in the elite class of teams in terms of their financial value. This school donated $1.7 Million to non-athletic scholarships in 2013. When this school wins, they win big both on and off the court.
2. Kansas Jayhawks — Team value $33 Million, Profit $20 Million.
The Park Place on our Monopoly board is the big wig of the Big 12 Conference. Kansas tops even defending National Champion Louisville in ticket sales at nearly $13 Million. The school has doubled their value since the Forbes list was created in 2008.
1. Louisville Cardinals — Team Value $39.5 Million, Profit $24.7 Million.
The Boardwalk of college basketball teams is Rick Pitino’s team in Louisville. This is the third straight year they can claim the title of the most valuable team in college basketball; and that was with their National Championship coming in the third year. They earned $11.5 Million in ticket sales and $21.5 Million in contributions. They are also moving into the Atlantic Coast Conference after this season, which will stack that conference with high quality teams and lots of cash.