The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog


This is a two-part series—a joint venture between HokieMark, who founder of and acaffrey, founder of this blog.  We all need to thank HokieMark for putting this data into a very useful spreadsheet that allows the analysis. This data is out there for anyone to see. You may think you know what the correlation is between spending on football and on-field success. The purpose of this two-part article is to analyze whether you were right—what is the true correlation, if any, between spending on football and on-field success. Part I will explain the nature of the concern and some of the analysis. Part II will complete the analysis. Instead of publishing these on different days, we’ll publish them on different blogs. Remember to check out both. And we hope that you will take the time to comment on the discussion.  This is Part I.  Here is the link to Part II.

Part I

From 1973 to 1975, Florida State went 4-29 in football. Needless to say, the Seminoles were not a football “king” back then. In 1976, they hired a head coach named Bobby Bowden. Bowden had immediate success in turning the Seminoles into a decent football school, with a 10-win season and Tangerine Bowl appearance in 1977 and an 11-win season and Orange Bowl appearance in 1979. By 1987, the Seminoles went 11-2, beginning an incredible streak of fourteen straight 10+ win seasons. During this period, Florida State moved from football independence to the Atlantic Coast Conference (“ACC”). This did not slow the Seminoles down at all. As the calendar passed into a new millennium, Florida State was a football “king” by any definition.

However, for an 18-year-old college freshman on September 1, 2012, it had been quite a while since Florida State was in the hunt for a national title. Indeed, this person would have been in the first grade the last time the Seminoles had a 10-win season—the 11-2 campaign in 2000. To that person, college football was all about the Southeastern Conference (“SEC”), with schools like LSU, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama winning national title after national title. Meanwhile, Florida State was struggling to get into the ACC championship game. How times had changed.

Of course, that same college freshman would have spent the summer of 2012 listening to Florida State fans discuss how they absolutely needed to move to a better football conference. To these fans, Florida State could not compete with their neighbors in the SEC because of the huge revenue disparity. It is unclear whether these fans were using money as an excuse for the mediocrity of the prior decade or expressing concern about the next decade to come. Fortunately for the Seminoles, Jimbo Fisher did not care about the revenue, instead just going back to doing what always worked in the past—developing recruits and coaching them well. In 2012, Fisher led the Seminoles to a 12-2 record, an ACC Championship, and an Orange Bowl victory.

But what about that proverbial “smoke” regarding the inability to financially compete with the SEC schools on the football field? Is there “fire” underlying this oft-repeated concern? Well, two ACC blogs decided to take a look at the actual numbers.

As a preliminary matter, it should be noted that revenue has not prevented non-AQ schools from being competitive. Boise State spent approximately $8M on football for data ending in June 2012. Future Big East members Houston and Tulane each spent more, actually.

Boston College spent more than twice as much as Boise State—an amazing $18M! Interestingly, Boston College also spent $10M on basketball, as well as $5M on hockey. The Eagles may have struggled on the court and on the field, but they spent some serious money to try to be competitive. Unfortunately, it did not work. You do not need a fancy degree to figure out that Boise State is a LOT more successful at football right now than Boston College.

We do not need to pick on Boston College. A lot of big spenders did poorly. Duke spent over $20M on football. Tennessee and Vanderbilt spend a similar amount of money on football–$20M and $19M, respectively. It has been quite a while since either played in a BCS bowl. Of course—these statistics are further interesting. Duke and Boston College spent about $38M on football, while Tennessee and Vanderbilt of the vaunted SEC spent about $37M on football. Can critics of the ACC really suggest that the ACC does not care about football when two of its private schools are spending more than two SEC counterparts?

Of course, not all SEC schools bother to spend as much on football as Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Mississippi schools put a total of $24M into their two respective football programs. Kentucky does a little better, investing $14M.

Surely, the uber-wealthy Big 10 is all about football, right? Not so fast. Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, and Purdue all spend less than $17M on football. In fact, those four schools spent a total of $63M. That is approximately $16M per school.

But what about the ACC? Well, as noted above, Duke and Boston College do their part, spending $38M between them. Wake Forest, another school criticized for its football prowess (despite tending to beat Florida State), did lag behind by spending only $15M on football. Future Big 10 member, Maryland, fits right in at $14M. Still, these four ACC schools spent $67M on football, more than the four Big 10 schools discussed above.

In Part II, we will move away from the lower echelon of football success and take a look at the big football names and football expenses.

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  1. Link is missing for part 2…..great article by the way!

  2. Typo?

    However, for an 8-year-old college freshman on September 1, 2012

    • Well, I am sure that there are 8-year-olds out there being offered scholarships to SEC programs. But, yeah, it was a typo. Thanks for the heads up.

  3. In response to a comment elsewhere—obviously, the scholarship costs are higher at private schools. But Duke and Syracuse could say “hey, if public school X is going to invest $14M, that is all we are going to invest too.” Instead, they rise to the occasion and invest more money. Also, unlike public schools, private schools do not have state backing and the alumni base resulting from high student #’s.

    Somehow most of the major football powers are public schools… Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska, etc. USC and Notre Dame are the exceptions.

    Moreover, Pitt invested $19M with $3M in TV revenue. That is compared to FSU investing $22M on $10M in TV revenue. Not even sure Illinois spent more on football than TV revenue.

    • Scarlet_Lutefisk on said:

      Regarding the public/private comment…it’s not quite so cut & dry when it comes to Penn State. Officially they are a ‘state-related’ school & they climb over to whichever side of the fence (private or public) is most advantageous when it comes to legal matters.

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