Most Valuable Conferences in College Sports

    Football generates most of the money in College sports, and then comes basketball at a distant second. The most valuable conferences in college sports are drifting away from the big East, stuck between the “small big five” and the real giants of the SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten.

    Forbes calculated the value based on television deals, bowl game payouts and distributions from NCAA tournament play. Bowl games include both BCS and non-BCS bowls, NCAA tournament revenue counts conference games played over the last six years and television revenue represents the average annual payout under current TV deals.


    With a total income of $10 million, including $6 million from bowl games and $2 million from NCAA tournaments and $2 million more from television revenue, the WAC has managed to slowly bounce back from losing Hawai’i and Nevada. The WAC also had the best overall football performance by a non-AQ conference in 2012-13. Strong seasons by Utah State, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech helped the conference to a $5 million cut of the non-AQ conferences’ BCS payout.

    Mountain West

    A total income of $21.5 million, with $7 million coming from bowl games, $6.5 million from the NCAA tournament and $8 million from TV revenue. Out of the non-AQ conferences, that NCAA tournament revenue is second only to the Atlantic 10’s $7.9 million.


    The MAC enjoyed a total income of $22 million, with $18 million coming from bowl games, thanks to Northern Illinois getting into the Orange Bowl, giving the conference an extra $9 million on that bid alone.

    Conference USA

    The most valuable of the group of five, C-USA enjoyed a total income of $26.5 million, $16 million coming from TV revenue. An upcoming joint-conference deal with the Mountain West is supposed to help close the gap from the nation’s top conferences, at least in financial terms.

    Big East

    The small conference among the AQ powers and seems to be in falling apart mode. Enjoyed a total income of $94 million: $30 million from bowl games, $28 million from the NCAA tournament and $36 from its TV deals. The conference is quickly falling apart as schools like Pittsburgh and Syracuse have paid additional fees just to make a faster exit.

    Big 12

    Having only 10 members means that the Big 12 doesn’t mind having the lowest total income ($262 million) of the “big five.” The Big 12 generates more than $26 million per member from bowls, tournaments and TV rights, the most of any conference.


    The conference annually maxes out its BCS revenue (nearly $30 million this year) in addition to playing in some of the more valuable non-BCS bowls, like the Outback Bowl. They had a total income of $270 million, $205 million coming from TV revenue. Up for a new deal soon, it might push them further up the charts among the money makers.


    Despite a new, $3.6 billion TV contract with ESPN, there are plenty of realignment rumors going on in the ACC. The conference has responded to the departure of Maryland by getting Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville and a non-football Notre Dame.


    The Pac-12 has had trouble securing cable syndication for its new conference-specific network, and the conference’s sole ownership of the network means that it’s also fully responsible for covering start-up and operating costs. Still, the current TV contract means that each school will be getting $30 million a year from the conference, raking in a total income of $303 million.

    Big Ten

    The Big Ten Network, which is 49% owned by the conference, has become a veritable cash cow. The additions of Rutgers and Maryland might inject $100 million more to the conference each year, currently standing a total income of $310 million, $250 million coming from the TV networks.

    Images: Source