In football, Horns are nation’s biggest cash cow

If the BCS awarded a championship for making money from football, the University of Texas would win in a walk.

“We used to be No. 2 behind Ohio State. Now we’ve jumped out to a pretty good lead,” said Ed Goble, UT’s associate athletic director for business.

According to data the schools filed with the federal government, the top five money makers in college football also included Southeastern Conference powers Florida, Georgia and Alabama, which will face Texas on Jan. 7 in the BCS national title game.

The data showed that while the country was in the midst of a lingering and deep recession, revenues generated by the Longhorns football program increased by 20 percent in 2008, rising by $14.6 million to a whopping $87.6 million.

That’s by far the most money ever generated by a college football program and almost $20 million more than Ohio State — now relegated to second place — pulled in.

“I don’t really like comparisons,” said Ben Jay, senior associate athletic director at Ohio State. “We’re trying to do different things (than Texas).”

Ohio State fields 36 men’s and women’s teams on the NCAA level; Texas fields 20. Typically the only sports that take in more than they spend are men’s basketball and football, with football the big money-maker.

After the 2007 season, Ohio State and four other schools were within $10 million of Texas in terms of football revenue. Not any more. Even Alabama’s increase of $7.2 million in 2008 fell far short of Texas’ leap of $14.6 million.

“It helps to have oil wells on your freakin’ campus,” joked Dan Fulks, an accounting professor at Transylvania University in Kentucky and an NCAA consultant. “Revenue is all about ticket sales, and Texas is going to sell tickets.”

For the 2008 season, Texas made $33.4 million in ticket sales and student athletic fees, up from $24.6 million the previous year. “We added 9,000 seats when we finished the north end zone,” Goble explained.