Money Talks

Steven Holstad FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

We’ve all heard the phrase “money talks,” but just how loud is this school from way out west that we all know and love?  More importantly, just how well does Oregon handle all of its revenue; is it getting the biggest bang for its buck?  I know you’re probably thinking you don’t want an economics lesson from a website about sports, but don’t worry, I’ll bring this all back to Oregon Ducks athletics.

“ESPN The Magazine” released a very interesting infographic about the spending habits of the top colleges across the nation.  Oregon cracked the top 10 list, ranking in revenue at No. 9 among the top schools in the country.

Taking into account all sports, football and basketball took up most of the area in pie charts for each school, not a surprise.  While the numbers are certainly eye popping, what’s more interesting is what these charts represent.  Oregon is the only school from the Pac-12 to make the list; that’s right, even the mighty program of USC did not generate more revenue than Oregon.

In fact, Oregon could be considered the black sheep of the group, since the Ducks clearly have the least-historic program.  While Oregon is certainly a big-time program, it’s never mentioned with the juggernauts of college sports; schools such as Alabama, Michigan, and Oklahoma are the ones that get mentioned first.

Autzen is by far the smallest stadium amongst the other schools

Craig Strobeck

The listed capacity for Autzen Stadium is the smallest for any big-time football program.

Texas, who the Ducks beat in the Alamo Bowl last season, leads the country in revenue with a whopping $166 million; for some perspective, Oregon generated $115 million from their entire athletic department.  More important than revenue, Oregon was sixth in the country in total surplus, netting $18 million.

On this list, Texas leads the country in expenses; Oregon does not even make the list.  But, Texas was just one place above Oregon on the surplus list, banking $18.9 million after all expenses.

Let’s put that in perspective  – Texas is spending the most money in the country, bringing in the highest amount of revenue but only keeping about $900 thousand more than the Ducks.  While 900 large is certainly more than what I have, if you take into account the money the NCAA and these schools deal with, it’s not much.

What Oregon is getting for its money is incredible.  Would you pay that much money for Texas’ results these past few years or pay the comparatively little for what the Ducks have accomplished? For the entire infographic, Oregon does not show up on a single category of the highest spenders, but did show up on both the highest revenue and profit lists.

Take all of that into account and then think which program is more exciting right now.  In fact, let’s compare Oregon to the entire list; over the past 5-10 years, only a few programs have enjoyed more success than Oregon.  Of the top 10 revenue earners, Alabama, LSU, Texas, Florida and Ohio State have won national championships.

Which team is better right now? You can make an argument that Oregon is on better footing than Tennessee, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and is only a few spots behind Oklahoma in various preseason rankings released to date.

A critic of Oregon’s success might point out Phil Knight’s contributions, saying that anyone would be successful if they were getting the donations that Oregon gets.  Phil Knight’s contributions cannot be understated; however, it’s not as simple as that.

Oregon athletics is working with a smaller budget than Ohio State, but this isn’t exactly David versus Goliath.  Knight’s donations are only one piece of the pie.  While he certainly helped pay for the shiny new buildings around campus, the largest source of revenue is obviously ticket sales, the Duck Athletic Fund and licensed merchandise sales; all of these sources are courtesy of Oregon fans who love supporting their Ducks.

It’s important to note that Oregon is a big-time program just like the other teams on this list.  It certainly is nice to know that Oregon has worked its way onto this list with wise spending, success on the field and the court, and most importantly, a loyal fan base.

Give yourself a pat on the back Oregon fans.  The Ducks being on this list is proof that you don’t need a stadium the size of a small country, to matter in college football.  This wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the loyal, supportive, and passionate fan base that Oregon boasts, so let’s keep up the good work.

Top photo by Kevin Cline

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