You might call Mack Brown the master of pigskin profit. In his 16 seasons as head coach, Brown’s University of Texas football program has raked in $940.2 million in revenue — with pure profit of nearly $675 million. Brown’s time at the team’s helm ends December 30 with the Longhorns’ appearance in the Alamo Bowl.
To be sure, Brown isn’t solely responsible for generating that pile of cash. But when you’re essentially the CEO of a multimillion-dollar business, you deserve more than a pat on the back if you achieve success. (Undoubtedly, a more than $5 million annual salary is a rich reward.)
Football profit in 2012-13 totaled $81.7 million, up more than 865 percent from almost $8.5 million in 1997-98.
A CultureMap review of UT and U.S. Department of Education records shows that football revenue at Texas shot up more than 690 percent from $13.8 million in the 1997-98 school year to $109.4 million in 2012-13.
Football profit in 2012-13 totaled $81.7 million, up more than 865 percent from almost $8.5 million in 1997-98. During that span, the Longhorns clinched the 2005 national football championship and played for the 2009 national championship.
Given those numbers, it’s no surprise that Forbes just anointed the Longhorns as college football’s most valuable team, worth an estimated $139 million. According to the magazine:
The team’s unprecedented value is built on the back of the nation’s most dedicated fan base, which has helped Texas lead all schools in merchandise sales, secure the most lucrative school-specific TV deal and become the only college football team in history to cross $100 million in revenue, which the Longhorns have done for the last two seasons.
To determine college football’s most valuable teams, Forbes weighed each team’s value to its athletic department, its university’s academic endeavors, its athletic conference and its school’s local economy.
As outlined by Forbes, the Longhorns picked up $34.5 million from ticket sales in 2012-13. Most of the team’s remaining revenue came from contributions ($30 million), royalties and sponsorships ($26 million), and distributions from the NCAA and Big 12 ($15 million).
“If you were ever looking for a recession-proof business, you wouldn’t need a college degree to see that football is a no-brainer,” according to Businessweek.
It’s also a no-brainer that Brown has played a pivotal role in ratcheting up the business of football at Texas. UT grad John Vrooman, a professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in sports economics, says Brown restored stability to the Longhorn football program and “reconnected” the Bevo brand to the glory years of the revered Darrell K. Royal.
“Mack Brown generated revenues by glad-handing boosters and playing for national championships,” he says, “but his major contribution was to slam shut the revolving coaching carousel that followed DKR.”
Vrooman says it’s vital for UT to keep pace with “fads” in college football coaching, but it’s even more important to protect the long-term value of the Longhorns brand.
“Texas football more than pays for itself, and even if the new coach’s salary approaches the $7 million to $8 million Nick Saban range, it will still be less than my rule of thumb of 5 percent of the Texas football budget,” Vrooman says. “The Longhorn brand is all about winning, and short-term winning becomes a long-term tradition of winning that sells itself.”
On Forbes.com, sports economist Patrick Rishe wrote that it’s hard to overlook the “financial bump” that the UT athletics program has enjoyed during Brown’s tenure, and the outgoing coach deserves some of the credit.
Brown’s successor obviously will feel pressure to notch on-the-field victories, along with financial ones. However, Rishe, assistant professor of economics at Webster University near St. Louis, says he doesn’t think the Longhorns’ revenue-producing prowess will be in jeopardy in the post-Brown era.
“Obviously, winning more generates more revenue,” Rishe says, “but UT fans and followers are such diehards that even playing at a level consistent with the last few years won’t seriously destroy ticket or alumni revenue.”
John Solow, an economics professor at the University of Iowa, says the next Texas coach and his staff would be wise to concentrate on recruiting talented players, cultivating the players’ abilities and making smart tactical decisions during games.
“Win, go to major bowl games and get players drafted by the NFL,” Solow says, “and the revenue will take care of itself.”
Here’s the football revenue scoreboard for the Mack Brown era at UT:
Here are the expenses that the football program racked up during Mack Brown’s stint:
Here’s the profit (revenue minus expenses) that the football program rang up during Mack Brown’s tenure: