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Oklahoma State Might Have the Most Efficient Athletic Department in the Country



I’m deep in my offseason #Process of crunching crootin and revenue numbers, and I came across something really interesting this week. I was looking at which teams get the most out of the least. Not on the field but off of it.

That is, which teams are operating with the smallest revenue streams but still win at the highest level. This data is easily accessible, of course, because we have recent win-loss totals as well as NCAA budgets for all public schools (sorry, TCU, SMU and Baylor).

So I ranked each team by total revenue and winning percentage over the last 10 years and took the difference. Here’s what I found.

Teams that underperformed
Team Revenue Rank W/L Rank Difference
Texas 2 37 -35
Oregon State 52 89 -37
UCLA 29 68 -39
Texas A&M 1 41 -40
Michigan 5 47 -42
California 43 86 -43
Arkansas 14 60 -46
Washington State 55 103 -48
Maryland 36 94 -58
Iowa State 48 108 -60
Minnesota 19 80 -61
Colorado 50 115 -65
Tennessee 9 75 -66
Purdue 47 114 -67
Kentucky 13 91 -78
Illinois 31 110 -79
Indiana 32 112 -80
Virginia 28 111 -83
Kansas 38 127 -89

These are schools whose football teams do not match up with their athletic revenue. Kansas and Virginia have been the greatest offenders. Unsurprisingly we find a lot of basketball schools on here.

Also, good job good effort, Tennessee. The ninth-highest revenue and the 75th-best winning percentage in college football. Awesome. Of course, I guess when you can win five games a year and still make $140 million, you might actually be the smart one.

Teams that overperformed
Team Revenue Rank W/L Rank Difference
Oklahoma State 37 10 27
Utah 45 18 27
Clemson 27 5 22
Virginia Tech 41 19 22
Oregon 23 6 17
Kansas State 49 34 15
Florida State 18 8 10
Georgia Tech 51 43 8
Alabama 4 1 3
Oklahoma 6 4 2
Wisconsin 11 9 2
Ohio State 3 2 1
Michigan State 16 15 1
Georgia 15 14 1

This delights Mike Holder’s ledger-balancing heart to no end. Oklahoma State is No. 1 in the country when it comes to positive disparity between athletic department revenue and football winning percentage. Their budget says OSU is the 37th best program in the country, and the reality is they’re the 10th. That’s called being resourceful.

Utah, Clemson, Oregon and Virginia are all incredibly impressive, too. No surprise to find our penny-pinching brethren to the north, Kansas State, in the mix as well.

This is a catch-22 for me. On one hand, I love how efficient OSU is. Their off-the-field efficiency matches their ability to turn low recruiting rankings into really good teams (and might actually even be the cause behind it). On the other hand, wouldn’t you love to see what one of the most efficient athletic departments in the country could do with more resources, with more money?

They don’t need to go all Texas A&M and double the revenue, but $1 million toward recruiting and $1.5 million toward facilities seems like it could be a pretty good return on investment. Of course, from a financial perspective, there’s really not a huge incentive to improve as things stand right now.

Obviously this is a very rough sketch in terms of cause and effect. Oftentimes on-field performance affects revenue and not the other way around. But football programs drive (and are driven by) athletic departments, and I found the numbers fairly intriguing. It makes sense, too, that a school like Oklahoma State, led by an AD like Mike Holder would be at the top of the good list. Whether you like him or not, he’s been a boon for OSU’s athletic department, and the Pokes have found great success under his watch.

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