Whose College Football Team is More Profitable: OSU’s or Oregon’s?

Wow, on January 1st in New Orleans the Buckeyes toppled the number one ranked team, Alabama, in the Sugar Bowl.  This is great news since Ohio State’s team is going to play in the first national championship on January 12th against the University of Oregon’s “Mighty Ducks.”  This will clearly boost applications, increase local pride and help with donations.  Sports writers and bloggers around the country have begun comparing the two teams’ offenses, defenses and famous supporters.  As an economist my thoughts naturally wandered towards money.  I wondered which football team is more “profitable?”

Profitable is a strange word since both universities are non-profit organizations.  Nevertheless, most top Division 1 football programs earn their schools a lot of money.  Some of this money is spent on coaches and first rate training facilities for the players.  However, most of the money is actually used to subsidize other sports teams.  For example, OSU has excellent teams in smaller sports like synchronized swimming, fencing and pistol shooting that most people don’t know about and Oregon has a great beach volleyball team.

The amount of money earned and spent by every college and university on athletics is collected and published each year by the US Department of Education.  This federal agency has created a special tool called EADA (which stands for Equity in Athletics Data Analysis).  EADA was designed to ensure Title IX compliance.  Anyone with an internet connection can easily see if any college is underfunding women’s sports compared to men’s sports (just click on “Get data for one institution” and type the college’s name into the search box).  Using EADA it is simple to see exactly how much both OSU and Oregon made and spent on their football programs.  What were the numbers last year, which was from the fall of 2013 through the summer of 2014?


Football Revenue

Football Expenses



$65.8 million

$23.4 million

$42.4 million


$56.0 million

$18.2 million

$37.8 million

The above table shows that OSU earned a “profit” of $42.4 million from their football program last year while Oregon earned $37.8 million.  The Buckeyes beat the Ducks by almost $5 million!

Raising money is only part of the story.  The football team cross-subsidizes other sports.  While the Ducks make less “profit,” they could be subsidizing more varsity athletes or teams.  The below table shows this is not the case.  OSU has roughly twice as many varsity teams (33 to 15) and has almost twice as many varsity athletes on the roster (907 to 478).  Each OSU football player is helping to support almost twice as many other athletes as each Oregon football player.



Varsity Athletes







I don’t know if the Buckeyes will dominate on the field next Monday night, but they are clearly dominating at earning money.  I always thought everyone in Columbus said “Go Bucks” because it was just short hand for “Buckeyes.”  Little did I realize “Go Bucks” also referred to the football team’s superior money making skills.


7 thoughts on “Whose College Football Team is More Profitable: OSU’s or Oregon’s?

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