Big Ten Football: Penn State Leads Four Big Ten Teams in Top 10 of Profits

Adam Jacobi@Adam_JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterMarch 22, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12: A general view during the game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Nebraska Cornhuskers on November 12, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Big Ten makes money. Boy, does it ever make money. With the Big Ten Network revenue distribution topping $20 million per school in the conference, guaranteed BCS bowl revenue to share, and ticket sales running briskly basically everywhere in the conference, athletic departments are raking in more money faster than they can spend it—and with coaches' salaries where they are, that's no small feat.

The Business of College Sports, a website that's about exactly what you'd think it is, analyzed financial reports of revenue and expenses from AQ-conference schools to the Department of Education for the 2010-2011 school year. It's not perfect data, but it's as close to perfect as one can get for analyzing whether an athletic department is turning a profit.

As it turns out, Penn State made some money in 2010-11. Scratch that: Penn State made a LOT of money in 2010-11. The Nittany Lions were second in the nation behind Alabama (and by only $65,000, at that) in estimated profit with $31,619,687.

Yes, $31 million dollars more in revenue than expenses.

Penn State was one of four Big Ten teams to make the Top 10, and altogether 48 AQ schools—including 10 Big Ten athletic departments—reported higher revenue than expenses in 2010-11. Here's the whole Top 10 and the rest of the Big Ten schools in the list, with the Big Ten schools in bold (obviously).

1. Alabama, $31,684,872
2. Penn State, $31,619,687
3. Michigan, $26,649,499
4. Texas, $24,317,815
5. Kansas State, $23,395,408
6. Notre Dame, $19,147,710
7. Ohio State, $18,630,964
8. Oregon, $16,433,642
9. Oklahoma State, $14,365,376
10. Michigan State, $13,512,269
17. Purdue, $6,773,110
21. Iowa, $5,296,068
22. Indiana, $$5,293,816 
23. Nebraska, $5,170,608 
32. Illinois, $1,815,596
39. Wisconsin, $655,421

Northwestern and Minnesota did not report a profit to the Department of Education, and as such both athletic departments should be disbanded immediately.

That's how this works, right?

This data, while just as subject to accounting trickery as anything else in a university's budget, would seem to confirm the notion that collegiate athletics is a really profitable undertaking.

And why wouldn't it be? The labor is dirt-cheap, with most of the compensation being in-kind benefits (scholarship, room and board) instead of direct financial payouts. The schools own the trademarks, logos and likenesses of the athletes in perpetuity.

Yes, indeed, these athletic departments sure are making a lot of money off of their athletes. Those athletes must be awfully proud of how much money they're helping pour into the schools' coffers, and let's be honest, pride is more than sufficient as its own reward for athletes, right?

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