The Big XII – A Two-Tiered League

Recently, I read an article that claimed the Big XII South Division might be the best conference in college football this year (I didn’t bookmark the article and couldn’t find it in a Google search). Unfortunately, the Big XII has two divisions, North and South, and the South has recently dominated the North. Not surprisingly, the South teams lead the way in spending on their football programs.

Big money equals big facilities, which leads to better recruits, which results in football teams best-equipped to win division, conference and national titles.

And the big money in the Big 12 mostly resides in the South, where the 2004 season was an eye-opener.

South teams thrashed those from the North, going 16-3 and winning by an average of 20 points. South champion Oklahoma finished off the season by manhandling Colorado 42-3 in the Big 12 title game.

In its last reporting cycle (2003-04), numbers from the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act reveal South schools spent a combined $68.1 million on football, compared with $55.6 million for North schools. Texas Tech was at a league-high $15.3 million. That compares with a $9.6 million football budget at Colorado.

In this post I wrote over at Market Power last November, in which I looked at some expenditure figures for the 2002-2003 academic year, Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas State were the top three in spending on their football programs and only Nebraska and Colorado spent more than $8 million on their football programs. Those numbers do not include expenditures on capital improvements. The South is doing well in that area as well:

Texas A&M’s $27 million Bright Football Complex, opened in 2003, a 125,000- square-foot, state-of-the-art building akin to CU’s 92,000- square foot Dal Ward Athletic Center. Unlike the Dal Ward center, the Bright complex is football only.

Indoor practice facilities at Oklahoma and Texas erected in the past three years.

Oklahoma State’s $86 million renovation project to update Boone Pickens Stadium.

The only program in the North that is upgrading its facilities at a similar rate as its South counterparts is Nebraska. This month, Nebraska completed a new indoor practice facility, which has two adjoining grass practice fields. It is Phase One of a $50 million project. Phase Two is the Tom and Nancy Osborne Athletic Complex, an addition to Memorial Stadium that will boost seating capacity over 80,000 and includes 13 skyboxes on the top floor. It is expected to bring in $5 million in additional revenue per year.

The South has risen! Nebraksa and Colorado seem, at least looking at historical data, to be most likely to compete with the South teams for a conference championship, with Nebraska probably being the most likely to do this. I’ve been to a few games at Memorial Stadium. The “Sea of Red” that is not only Memorial Stadium but Lincoln, Ne. on game days is an impressive sight to behold. NU football has been mediocre by their fans’ standards for a couple of years now. But I have reason to doubt that it will continue to flounder. While the scholarship limitations that Skip alluded to here has had some effect***, Nebraskans (“Nebraskans” and “Nebraska football fans” are redundant terms) care too much for their football and they are willing to pay a lot to have a good team – and that means great facilities. Of course, Notre Dame hasn’t been doing all that hot recently, and its spending on its football program is on par with the Texas’s and the NU’s of the world (in 2003-2004, Notre Dame spent a little under $11.4 million). But the link between spending and winning certainly seems to be there in the Big XII.

Photo of author

Author: Phil Miller

Published on:

Published in: