Over the past five seasons, Ohio State has been among college football's elite programs. The Buckeyes have been to five consecutive BCS bowls, including the BCS championship games in 2006 and 2007.
They have owned the Big Ten Conference, winning or sharing the Big Ten title in all five seasons.
Yet, for all the Buckeyes' accomplishments, they have clearly underachieved in that span. Sure, they've only lost 10 games since 2005. But they should have won every single one of them.
That's right, instead of a 54-10 record since 2005 the Buckeyes should be 64-0 -- at least based on what the Buckeyes spend on their football program.
No university in America pours more money into its football program than Ohio State. The Buckeyes spent $32.3 million for the 2008-09 school year, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Education's Equity in Athletics. The 2008-09 school year is the most recent data that is available.
Ohio State's $32.3 million spending spree was $3.5 million more than the next closest school: Auburn at $28.8 million. Not surprisingly the nation's top eight spenders – and yes, they all bring in nearly two to three times that much in revenue – are from the Big Ten and SEC.
After Ohio State and Auburn is Iowa ($26.9 million) of the Big Ten, followed by four SEC schools – Alabama ($26.44 million), Tennessee ($22.96 million), Florida ($22.86 million) and LSU ($22.74 million). The Big Ten's Wisconsin ($22.71 million) ranks eighth.
The other BCS conference big spenders and how they rank nationally are: the Big 12's Texas (ninth nationally, $22.56 million), the Pac-10's USC (10th, $21.31 million), the ACC's Miami (11th, $20.97 million) and the Big East's Rutgers (16th, $19.73 million). Independent Notre Dame ranks 20th overall, spending $18.74 million.
While having college football's deepest pockets couldn't buy Ohio State a perfect record, the Buckeyes still posted an impressive 83.6 winning percentage (excluding games against the military academies and Football Championship Subdivision schools) in the past five seasons. That was substantially better than two other schools that clearly didn't take advantage of their financial advantages.
Besides Ohio State, Auburn and Rutgers also had the luxury of playing every game in the past five seasons – the time frame used in FanHouse's study – against opponents that spent less money than the Tigers and Scarlet Knights.
Despite that financial advantage, Auburn has gone only 38-21 (.644) and Rutgers 35-17 (.673) since 2005 with the schools combining for exactly zero conference titles and zero BCS bowls.
They say money can't buy happiness, but spending more money than your opponent does nearly guarantee a winning record on the gridiron.
Of the 66 schools in the automatic qualifying BCS conferences – the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC plus Notre Dame – only six teams had a losing record over the past five seasons when playing schools that spent less money on their football programs.
The Not-So-Super Six are: Duke (4-16 record against schools that spent less money, .200 winning percentage); Syracuse (10-35, .222); Washington (13-33, .282); North Carolina (7-12, .386); Iowa State (13-19, .426) and N.C. State (4-5, .444).
Meanwhile, West Virginia has been the nation's most successful school when playing against teams with bigger budgets. The Mountaineers' success rate against schools with a greater financial commitment is unprecedented.
In the past five seasons, the Mountaineers played 17 games against schools that they were outspent by and West Virginia was an impressive 14-3 in those contests.
In fact, West Virginia actually fared better in games against schools that spent more than money (.823 percent) than against schools that spent less money (33-10, .767) than the Mountaineers.
Following West Virginia as the most successful when playing against schools that spent more money were Florida (9-4, .692 percent), LSU (13-6, .684), Oregon (19-9, .678), Texas Tech (18-10, .642) and Oregon State (27-16, .627).
So based on how much their respective universities spent on their football programs, college football's biggest BCS underachievers were Duke, Syracuse, Washington, North Carolina, Iowa State and N.C. State and the biggest BCS overachievers were West Virginia, Florida, LSU, Oregon, Texas Tech and Oregon State.
While the top Big Ten and SEC schools spent more than $20 million on their football programs, all of the non-automatic qualifying BCS schools – with the exception of TCU – didn't even spend half that much. The Horned Frogs spent $16.63 million in 2008-09, which was tops among non-BCS schools and an impressive 31st nationally. Overall, TCU ranked just behind Florida State and ahead of Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Oregon and Michigan State.
The Horned Frogs enjoy a huge financial advantage against other non-BCS football programs, spending $5 ½ million more than the next non-BCS school: SMU ($11.12 million). Including TCU, the Mountain West had four of the top five spending non-BCS football programs – BYU (third, $10.16 million), San Diego State (fourth, $9.86 million) and Utah (fifth, $9.84 million). Other than SMU, Conference USA had four other schools in the non-BCS top 10 football spending programs: Tulsa (sixth, $9.78 million), Rice (seventh, $9.54 million), East Carolina (ninth, $8.56 million) and Memphis (10th, $8.30 million).
The other non-BCS conference leaders in spending were: the WAC's Hawaii ($9.03 million), the MAC's Temple ($8.03 million) and the Sun Belt's Florida International ($5.97 million). Boise State, which has won two BCS bowls in the past four seasons, spent only $5.36 million, which was only the fifth-highest amount in the WAC. The Broncos ranked a surprisingly low 32nd out of the 51 non-BCS schools.
Today is part one of FanHouse's comprehensive three-part series examining the financial aspects of the multi-million dollar Division I athletic departments. All of the financial figures are from the U.S. Department of Education's Equity in Athletics report for the 2008-09 school year. Financial records of the military academies are not available in the report and were not included in this study.
First, here are teams' records since 2005 for each school when playing against schools that spent less money on their football program. Games against military academies and Football Championship Subdivision opponents are not included.
We'll start with the SEC.
Now, below are those same teams' records since 2005 when playing against schools that spent more money on their football program. Once again, games against military academies and Football Championship Subdivision opponents are not included.
Show Me The Money
A look at the 66 automatic qualifying BCS schools and their football expenses for the 2008-09 school year by conference, with some analysis on each league.
||Expenses (in millions)
| 1. Auburn
| 2. Alabama
| 3. Tennessee
| 4. Florida
| 5. Louisiana State
| 6. South Carolina
| 7. Georgia
| 8. Arkansas
| 9. Vanderbilt
| 10. Kentucky
| 11. Mississippi State
| 12. Mississippi
| My two cents: Despite having the nation's third-lowest football budget, Ole Miss has more than held its own the past two seasons in the nation's toughest conference with consecutive nine-win seasons and two Cotton Bowl championships. Florida surprisingly – surprising to me, anyway – has only the league's fourth-highest football budget, but still has won two of the past four BCS titles. Another shocker: Vanderbilt has a bigger budget than Kentucky, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. But it's still not even half of Auburn's SEC-high budget. Only Ohio State spent more than Auburn, but that hasn't translated into much recent success for the Tigers. Auburn hasn't been to a BCS bowl since 2004. Tennessee is only outspent by Alabama and Auburn in the SEC and turns to its third head coach in as many seasons this fall. Has it really been 11 years since the Vols' last BCS bowl? SEC's best bang for the buck: Florida. Most financially irresponsible: Tennessee.
||Expenses (in millions)
| 1. Ohio State
| 2. Iowa
| 3. Wisconsin
| 4. Penn State
| 5. Michigan
| 6. Michigan State
| 7. Northwestern
| 8. Purdue
| 9. Indiana
| 10. Illinois
| 11. Minnesota
| My two cents: Looking for a reason Minnesota has only one victory against Ohio State since 1981? How about the fact Ohio State's football budget is 3½ times greater than Minnesota's. There's certainly nothing golden about the Gophers' Big Ten worst budget. Not so coincidentally, their last winning league record came in 2003. But, hey, it could be worse: they could be Indiana. The Hoosiers haven't had a winning league record since 1993. Penn State's budget ranks as only the league's fourth-highest, but the Nittany Lions' 29 league wins since 2005 are second only to Ohio State. Iowa's budget ranks third nationally, but the Hawkeyes haven't won the league title since a co-championship with Michigan in 2004. Big Ten's best bang for the buck: Penn State. Most financially irresponsible: Iowa.
||Expenses (in millions)
| 1. Texas
| 2. Oklahoma
| 3. Nebraska
| 4. Texas A&M
| 5. Missouri
| 6. Iowa State
| 7. Kansas State
| 8. Texas Tech
| 9. Kansas
| 10. Colorado
| 11. Oklahoma State
| 12. Baylor
| My two cents: Texas has the Big 12's biggest budget, but has only two league titles in the past five seasons. Oklahoma has won the other three. Texas Tech, with the only the league's eighth-biggest budget, has compiled 26 league victories since 2005. Only Texas and Oklahoma have more. Texas A&M's budget is only topped by UT, OU and Nebraska, but the results on the field haven't paid off for the Aggies. A&M has only two winning seasons since 2005 and hasn't won a bowl game since 2001. Oklahoma State may have the biggest booster in college athletics, but T. Boone Pickens' alma mater still ranks above only lowly Baylor for the league's smallest football budget. Big 12's best bang for the buck: Texas Tech. Most financially irresponsible: Iowa State.