But what if that money didn’t come from the traditional sources? What if boosters, alumni donations, program history, location, and bowl placement weren’t factors? What if college football programs actually depended on winning to be successful?
It would be a different world, but one thing would be familiar to fans of professional sports: programs would try to achieve the most on-field success for the least amount of money.
We looked at the final AP Standings and Department of Education documents that reveal the total expenses of college football programs, to see who would fare best among the top-25 teams in this world.
Here’s what we found:
The program that provided the most on-field success per dollar is… the University of Nevada-Reno. While things would very likely be different if every school shared this imaginary goal, this exercise clearly illustrates the biggest Cinderella stories among college football’s best teams.
Congratulations Nevada, step right up and grab your glass slipper.
Interestingly, everyone’s favourite small-school success story, the Rose Bowl-winning Horned Frogs of TCU, actually spent more on football than most major conference teams. Statistically, even Nike-backed Oregon is a bigger Cinderella than Texas Christian.
Also worth noting: expenses are not a particularly good predictor of top-25 success.
All teams considered finished in the Top 25, as we needed significant AP Poll points for the study.
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