For the second year in a row, the Ohio State Buckeyes have been named the most valuable football program in the NCAA.
A study composed by Ryan Brewer, assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University in Columbus, Indiana, valued the Scarlet and Gray at a whopping $946.6 million. Findings from the study first appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
To put the figure in perspective, it nearly doubles the worth of the average NHL hockey team, which is about $505 million. In fact, the Scarlet and Gray are valued higher than every NHL team except for the New York Rangers ($1.2 billion), the Montreal Canadiens ($1.18 billion) and the Toronto Maple Leafs ($1.15 billion), according to Forbes Magazine.
Astoundingly, the Buckeyes’ value is worth more than 19 of 30 NBA franchises as well, including the Oklahoma City Thunder ($930 million) and the Cleveland Cavaliers ($915 million), according to Forbes.
OSU Vice President and athletic director Gene Smith said he believes Brewer’s numbers are accurate. Smith leaned toward several reasons why OSU is valued so high, but he primarily pointed to fan support.
“We are the most watched (Football Bowl Subdivision) program since 1991,” Smith said in an email. “Last year only four regular season games drew over 8 (million) viewers, and we were part of three. Buckeye Nation is the largest and most passionate fan base in the world.”
Joe Odoguardi, the university’s chief financial officer of athletics, said in an email the Buckeyes’ TV media rights revenue earned $24.7 million alone in 2015.
Smith said donations to the university are at an all-time high, exceeding more than $200 million over the last few years. Pair that with OSU’s apparel deal with Nike, which after being extended late last week, is valued at $252 million over the next 15 years, and the recipe for OSU’s financial supremacy is clear.
Performance from the student-athletes is also a large contributing factor to OSU’s success, Smith said, as the Buckeyes’ football team was ranked in the AP Top 10 for the entire 2015 season, including holding the top spot for the first nine weeks.
“I am extremely proud of our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” Smith said. “Our focus on the total student-athlete development model continues to be a national model.”
OSU was the only school to place above $900 million in the study. Texas ($885 million), Michigan ($811.3 million), Notre Dame ($723.6 million) and Alabama ($694.9 million) round out the top five schools in the study.
In 2016, OSU athletics will be represented by more than 1,000 student-athletes across 36 intercollegiate sports, which, in turn, requires a lot of funding. Odoguardi said OSU’s athletic budget is set at $153 million for the new year.
Smith said in OSU’s yearly strategic plan, “A Higher Purpose,” it is the athletic department’s goal to develop the student-athletes while continuing to build on the university’s rich history.
“The department exists to motivate student-athletes to develop into exemplary champions, who in turn inspire future Buckeyes,” Smith said. “The department of athletics also is committed to financial self-sufficiency while contributing to the university’s academic priorities.”
In what may come as a surprise to some, the Buckeyes projected value actually dipped from the previous year, as in 2014, Brewer’s study valued OSU at $1.1 billion, but that was mainly due to the championship run it had in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Without that occurring again, the dip below the $1 billion mark took place, but Smith said he does believe it to be possible for OSU to surpass that value plateau again in 2016.
“As long as we stay the course with our values and focus on the student athlete, we have a chance to,” Smith said.
Brewer, the study’s author, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.