Report shows Penn State football a massive money-maker

Posted by on April 12, 2011

Penn State finished in the middle of the Big Ten pack on the football field last season.

They’ll likely have a similar finish on Wednesday when the recruiting experts weigh in on the winners and losers on National Letter of Intent Day.

But in one area, Penn State is the undisputed Big Ten leader — making money. The Nittany Lions are making gobs and gobs of cold hard cash.

Just check out the financial analysis that was recently published by sports business expert Kristi Dosh ( The figures cover the period from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, so we’re talking about the 2009 football season.

According Dosh’s figures, the Lions led the Big Ten in football revenue ($70.21 million), football profit ($50.43 million) and athletic department profit ($26.35 million).

Not surprisingly, the Lions’ closest competitors are Ohio State and Michigan. Ohio State is second in football revenue ($63.75 million) and Michigan is second in football profit ($44.86 million) and athletic department profit ($24.55 million).

What is surprising, however, is the margin of Penn State’s lead over its closest competitors. The Lions have a 10.1 percent edge in football revenue, a 12.4 percent edge in football profit and a 7.3 percent edge in athletic department profit.

Those are significant advantages, especially when you consider that Ohio State and Michigan are financial superpowers in college athletics.

The one area where Penn State is not a Big Ten leader is football expenses. The Lions come in a distant third ($19.78 million), behind Ohio State ($31.76 million) and Wisconsin ($22.04 million). Penn State spends a whopping 60.6 percent less than the Buckeyes on football.

Considering Ohio State’s domination of Big Ten football over the past decade, you could make a strong argument that you get what you pay for. During that span, Ohio State is 66-14 (.825) in Big Ten action. Penn State and Wisconsin, in contrast, are each just 45-35 (.563).

Of course, one reason Penn State’s football expenses are relatively low is because Joe Paterno’s university salary is just more than $1.1 million. Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, meanwhile, comes in at more than $3.5 million. Considering his accomplishments, JoePa is vastly underpaid.

So what do all these numbers tell us?

It tells us that PSU football, when you compare revenue to wins and losses, is an underachiever. It also tells you that, when Paterno finally retires, the PSU job will be the most coveted position in college football. The money, facilities, fan following and recruiting base are all in place.

Now the school just needs the right man to awaken the sleeping giant that is Penn State football.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dis patch. He can be reached at or at 854-1575, ext. 455.

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