Welcome back to college football season in the South. Taking note from students returning to campus, we hit the books. Well, one in particular.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gilbert M. Gaul traveled the country interviewing coaches and athletic directors and wading through contracts, budgets, and tax returns to make sense of the NCAA football economy. In his recently released book, Billion-Dollar Ball: A Journey Through the Big-Money Culture of College Football, Gaul leaves no major program unexamined. He finds the Southeastern Conference particularly interesting, digging into what makes schools like Alabama and Texas A&M such powerhouses.
“College football is a cultural phenomenon in the South,” Gaul says. “When you look at it through the prism of money, the SEC is the big dog.”
Below, we included a few of Gaul’s stats, plus more facts from beyond the SEC. Now, study up.
$326 million: Revenues of Southeastern Conference. Approximately $210 million of that comes from TV and radio contracts.
$4 million: Average SEC head football coach salary.
$7.1 million: The amount Alabama’s Nick Saban, the highest-paid college football coach, makes in a year.
$5.49 million: Total staff pay (not including head coach) at Louisiana State University, the highest of any program.
102,512: Number of seats at the newly expanded Texas A&M Kyle Field, now the largest stadium in the South (bigger than Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium by 57 seats).
26,000: Fans on waiting list for Alabama season tickets.
$586: Average ticket price for Saturday’s Texas Longhorns at Notre Dame season opener. The Fighting Irish host the Longhorns in Indiana for the first time in 20 years.
60: Pounds of meat (a combination of chicken thighs, sausage, pork, and shrimp), plus 24 pounds of long-grain rice needed to make jambalaya for 150 tailgaters. One LSU fan created the “Jambalaya Calculator” to help tailgaters prepare pots of the Louisiana favorite for crowds.
30+: The growing number of college stadiums (on and off campus across the country) that will sell alcohol this season. The University of Texas announced it will start selling libations to fans at Royal-Memorial Stadium this fall, joining other on-campus stadiums like Louisville, Kent State, and West Virginia. Off-campus stadiums that allow fans to enjoy a cold one include Georgia State and South Alabama.
13: Rows of boats that dock outside of Neyland Stadium during game days. The “Vol Navy” includes boats from 110-foot yachts to 4-foot kayaks that cruise, sail, and paddle together to support the Tennessee Volunteers.
9: Southern national champions since 2005.
7: Heisman trophy winners from Southern schools since 2007, including Florida’s Tim Tebow in 2007; Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford in 2008; Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009; Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010; Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in 2011; Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel in 2012; and Florida State’s Jameis Winston in 2013.