The Top College Sports Programs… Draft Style

Baxter Price —  Sunday, January 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

A day after the Big East lost its fifth member in nearly a year and a half with Rutgers leaving for the Big Ten, Jim Boeheim (Syracuse head basketball coach) had this to say: “Maybe they should just have a draft, each conference should just draft teams … except then they’d have to make a decision and they wouldn’t be able to figure it out. Eventually, they’ll get this thing figured out. They’ll get all the teams moved and then in a year or two someone will say ‘We need to take somebody,’ … But I’ll be long gone by then.”

After Louisville announced its switch, the number is up to seven teams bolting the Big East for the ACC. Jim Boeheim, a man who helped build the Big East into a national power, is now is going to struggle making a competitive conference schedule starting in 2014, and he isn’t the only one upset about the changes.

The biggest reason evident in all of the realignment is simple; college football television contract money has never been more valuable. Now, I won’t go into the reasoning behind every schools switch. Instead, I will offer a solution. Jim Boeheim suggested drafting, some say make four sixteen-team college football monster conferences, while others say make a basketball conference, football conference, and baseball conference. Even more might say, “leave them the way they have been for the past 30 years.”

I love the drafting idea, and even though it would never happen, I think it’s really interesting on paper and, perhaps, the most fair and reasonable way as well. I do agree with maximizing your profits, but all within the realm of making it somewhat geographically friendly. My rankings below are what I believe would be the ten most sought after schools if a draft took place today.

  1. Texas- The Longhorns athletic department has an operating revenue around 160 million dollars, the next closest is 20 million back from the Horns. If the 20,000+ square foot weight rooms, 50 total championship banners, and top notch coaches do not entice a 18 year old to go there for free, maybe a 24 hour network dedicated to all things Texas will. The Longhorn network is still in its beginning stages, and has a 247 million dollar, 20 year contract with ESPN. Bill Byrne, Gregg Byrnes father, and former A.D at Texas A&M had this to say about the Horns: “They do everything they can to set themselves apart, that they are the very best, they are elite.”
  2. Notre Dame- The only independent (football) team on this list and in my opinion one of the most valuable colleges in America. Apparently NBC thought so too, as the television station has a 15 million dollar deal with the Irish (the only team, college or pro with a national TV deal), and that deal has been restructured to increase the total to 17 million starting in 2015. We all know about the Irish’s success in football, 11 national titles, most consensus all Americans among any other school, and 7 Heisman trophy winners. Although the rest of their athletic programs have not shared the same success as the football team, Notre Dame has won 26 national championships overall since its inception. While they are currently in the Big East in all sports but football, the Irish join the ACC starting in 2014.
  3. Ohio State- The Buckeyes are among the nations elite in revenues at around 135 million dollars (second to Texas). And, probably the most complete athletic dominance among every sport, men’s and women’s. Since the inception of the Athletic Directors Cup, Ohio State has finished in the top 25 each year, including top-6 finishes in three of the last five years. Ohio State is one of only four universities to have won a NCAA national championship in baseball, men’s basketball, and football.
  4. Florida- Easiest thing to do as a Florida assistant? Recruit. The university sells itself. Warm weather, beautiful campus, and most of all, winning… and lots of it. Every year since 1983, the NACDA has recognized the Gators athletic program as one of the ten best overall Division 1 athletic programs in the country in its annual cup standings. Florida is the only school in NCAA history to win a men’s basketball championship and football championship in the same year. During the 2011-2012 academic school year the Gators men and women’s teams combined to win the SEC all-sports trophy for the 22nd time in the past 25 years.
  5. Alabama- This is one school that is on this list simply because of their football program, without it, Alabama probably isn’t in the top 20. In 2002, Sports Illustrated named Alabama the 26th best collegiate sports program in America. That was before they won 2 National Championships in 3 years under Nick Saban. When you can compare, as a coach, to Bear Bryant, that’s saying something, and Saban has done just that. He is in the process of building a dynasty in Tuscaloosa making it nearly impossible for other SEC teams to compete in recruiting against the Tide. 23 SEC titles, 14 national titles, and 58 bowl appearances (record) are just icing on the cake at this point. Alabama generates revenue of around 125 million/year.
  6. Stanford- If this was a list based on tradition and academic success alone, Stanford would be a unanimous number 1. The school has won the second most national championships of any school in the nation at 116. They rank first in women’s titles at 42. And, is the number 1 school in individual sport titles at 448. In the NACDA Directors Cup I mentioned earlier, Stanford has won that title for 18 consecutive years running. Their figures are not released to the public as far as budgets and finances. But the “Ivy League-like” atmosphere, beautiful weather, and winning tradition make the Cardinal one of the very best athletic schools in NCAA history.
  7. Oregon- Nike, Nike, Nike…. Phil Knight (Co-founder of Nike) graduated from Oregon and ran track for the Ducks. Nike supplies the Ducks with all of their equipment and gear. The Football team has been known for being one of the most exciting teams to watch in college football. And, they have participated in 4 BCS bowl games since the BCS’ inception in 1998. They are known for their “flash” and “uniqueness” with a new jersey for seemingly every game, air conditioned football pads, and their basketball court even has painted trees on the edges to simulate “The Pond” feel. It also doesn’t hurt that Phil Knight has also recently made a 100 million dollar donation to the Athletics Legacy Fund. They currently have the 2nd ranked athletic budget in the PAC-12, behind USC. But, many predict that over the next 10 years that could change.
  8. Michigan- Michigan’s success seems to come in spurts, whether it was the “Fab 5” revolutionizing modern day basketball, or the 11 national championships the football team owns. The Wolverines have been one of the top athletic programs since its inception. Their 33 overall Division-I national championships rank 10th all time. Now the “X-Factor”? The near 130 million dollar athletic budget, which they don’t mind flaunting. By the way, they are currently ranked 2nd in Men’s basketball with a 15-0 record.
  9. USC- In a conference draft, its key to gain hold of each state. And, what better state to own other than California? USC’s recruiting is about as easy as Florida’s. Athletes love playing there. Rich in history and tradition, the Trojans have won 118 national titles, which ranks 3rd all time. USC football is 2nd in Heisman winners and won the National Title 11 times, and their baseball team has won the national title 12 times, which more than doubles the next closest. Further, their women’s teams have won a total of 23 championships.
  10. North Carolina- North Carolina has won 39 team national championships in six different sports, ranking 8th all-time, and 51 individual national championships. And, that’s just for starters. They arguably have the most influential athlete of all time as an alumnus in Michael Jordan, who now proudly sponsors the basketball teams with his Jordan apparel, and is worth around half a billion dollars himself. Their baseball team has enjoyed plenty of recent success reaching the College World Series in 2006 and 2007.

**The financial figures that I included are from USA Today and the NACDA Directors cup, and they can be found here.

Other notables: Oklahoma, LSU, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Auburn, UCLA

In conclusion:

  1. Texas
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Ohio State
  4. Florida
  5. Alabama
  6. Stanford
  7. Oregon
  8. Michigan
  9. USC
  10. North Carolina


By: Baxter Price

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