Take the undefeated University of Kentucky Wildcats, which is heavily favored to win the upcoming NCAA tournament. The team ranks 16th in terms of profitability, with earnings of $7.5 million last year, according to a CNNMoney analysis of figures filed with the U.S. Department of Education.
The top-earning team is the Louisville Cardinals (a number 4 seed in the tournament), one of Wildcat’s rivals, which posted $24 million in profits on revenue of about $40 million during the 2013-2014 school year; ranked second is the University of Arizona Wildcats (seeded number 2 in the West), which posted a $17.7 million profit.
The third-place team, Syracuse, was just slapped with NCAA sanctions barring it from the tournament this year.
“But Syracuse’s standing could drop, since it’s been ordered to return an undisclosed amount of money to the NCAA,” CNNMoney wrote.
The principal revenue-generator for college teams is television deals that are distributed through conferences by a complicated profit-sharing formula, which typically enables even poor-performing teams in major conferences to make a profit, according to CNNMoney.
The 123 profitable teams on the publication’s list were mostly from big money conferences, collectively earning $351 million on nearly $1 billion of revenue last year.
College teams are also aided by the fact that their players don’t get paid beyond the scholarships they receive. Indeed, their profit margins are significantly higher than those of pro teams, with more than a dozen college teams posting profit margins above 50%.
However, 223 teams either broke even or lost money, with Oregon State posting the biggest loss last year, nearly $3 million, CNNMoney wrote.
The rankings were based on numbers for the 2014-2014 season.