How much does it cost to run a college football program?

During the fall, one of the most popular sports to watch during the weekend is college football. Thousands of people around the country turn in to watch these games, but some may wonder, how much do these football programs cost? With tuition costs rising and costs of living becoming more expensive, has the cost of maintaining a college football team also gone up?

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The average cost of an FBS football team is over 22 million dollars per year. FBS teams are the largest and most expensive college teams in the US. The Southeastern Conference averages the highest cost per team at 34 million per team, while the Sunbelt only averages 7.4 million per team.

The costs of a football team are not only the costs of scholarships, but also the costs of maintaining their stadiums, paying for staff, and paying for any travel and food costs. A new cost in recent years in NIL or additional funds that can be offered to players in exchange for them becoming a spokesman for commercial products and items.

With this in mind here are some of the common costs of running a football team, as well as some of the most expensive football teams in college today.

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How Much Does Each FBS Conference Pay For Their Football Teams

The first thing that we are going to look at is how much each FBS conference spends on football. To do this we will look at how much the average team in these conferences is spending.

Remember that the FBS Conferences are made up of the largest schools in the United States and while there are smaller schools that also have football teams, the vast majority of the money spent on college football, is spent by these conferences.

Here are the average amounts spent by each of the 10 FBS conferences between 2014 and 2018 with the SEC spending the most and the Sun Belt spending the least. All numbers listed below are millions of dollars: (Source)

  • SEC: 33.95M
  • B1G: 30.03M
  • ACC: 27.61M
  • Big 12: 26.28M
  • Pac 12: 26.2M
  • AAC: 15.7M
  • Mountain West: 11.38M
  • Conference USA: 9.45M
  • MAC: 8.00M
  • Sun Belt: 7.39M

Looking at these numbers from 2014 to 2018 we can see that even the smallest of these FBS football teams is still spending millions of dollars just to field a football team.

With costs going in up recent years we can expect the cost of running a football program will go up as well. However, while it is nice to look at the average cost of football teams in these conferences it may also be insightful to look at the most expensive teams in college football.

What Are The Most Expensive Teams in College Football

While average amounts spent can help us get a bird’s eye view of each of the conferences and which ones spend more money than their peers it does have some issues.

The main issue is that we are unable to see which of the football programs is the most expensive when the average is not being brought down by other schools. With that in mind here are the most expensive FBS college football teams in America. These numbers come from the average amount that each team spent on their football team from 2014 to 2018.


Starting out this list we have Alabama which spends by far the most amount of money on its football program. Over this four-year period, the school spent on average 60.43 million dollars on their football team, more than 10 million more than the next program on this list.

Florida State

Florida State spends the second most on its football program spending an average of 49.74 million dollars per year during this time period. This is the most out of any team in the ACC and much more than the conference average of 27.61 million per school.


Auburn is the second team from the SEC on this list after Alabama. They spend an average of 43.25 million on their football program per year. Both Auburn and Alabama far exceed the average of their conference which sat at 33.95 million per school, the highest in the nation.

Ohio State

Ohio State is the first team from the B1G conference on this list. They spend right around the same amount of money as Auburn spending just shy of 43 million, with an average budget of 42.99 million per year.


The next entry on this list is Ohio State’s main rival school, Michigan. Both teams have a similar budget that they allot to their football teams, with Michigan spending an average of 41.12 million dollars per year on their team. This is about 1 million shy of their rival’s budget but is still much higher than the B1G conference average of 30.03 million per school.


The final team on this list, Clemson, is the second ACC team on the list. They spend 40.95 million dollars per year on their football program. While this is almost 9 million less than the earlier team from their conference, Florida State, their conference on average spends 27.61 million per team, so Clemson does not appear to have any issues spending on their football program.

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Do Schools That Spend More on Their College Football Teams Win More

When looking at how much these top colleges are spending on their football teams, it is easy to question if that money is really necessary. Does spending more on your football team really change anything, or is it just a waste of money?

In terms of where this money is going, the simple answer is that these schools are willing to pay more for their coaches, stadiums, and training facilities than other schools. With this in mind, do schools that spend more on their football teams end up winning more games?

Looking at the top 15 spenders in college football, these schools spend an average of 41.45 million dollars per year on their teams. During this same time, these schools were, on average, ranked the 14th or 15th best team in the nation. (Source)

If we only look at the top 6 spenders in college football they spend on average, 46.41 million dollars on their teams. They were ranked on average as a top 7 team in the nation.

Based on these numbers, I believe it is safe to assume that teams that spend more on their football teams tend to win more, and the biggest spenders are those who are competing for the title of best college football team each year.

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