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This chart shows which college football teams have the most success per dollar

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It takes money to make football teams win games. Which college programs are the most efficient at spending and winning?

There may be some truth to the popular notion that college football teams can purchase success.

The most successful programs, like Alabama and Ohio State, have been rewarded with national championships after they splurged on big-name coaches. However, there are many other programs, like Texas and Miami, who continue pumping money through the system without much recent success.

Since there are anecdotes to back up both, I decided to look at each FBS program to see which schools are getting the best and worst bang for their buck.

To see how much each school spent on football, I looked at data from the U.S. Department of Education. To measure on-field results, the Massey composite, an index that averages dozens of rankings including the AP Poll and computer ratings. (That means Alabama finishes a little lower than you'd expect. The Tide had 13 combined losses in 2006 and 2007, for what it's worth.)

Spending data was not available for the service academies, so Army, Navy, and Air Force are excluded, as are schools that have been FBS for fewer than 10 seasons.

The result spans from Auburn ($32.1 million on football-related expenses per year and one national championship) and Alabama ($31.4 million and four titles) to ULM ($3.1 million, though with at least more football success than some schools).

Boise State is by far the most efficient with its money.

The Broncos have outplayed their spending ranking by 62.7 spots, spending an average of $7.8 million. Most over-performers here are other smaller schools who've strung together a handful of successful seasons.

Mississippi State and Oregon stand out among Power 5 schools. Oregon has much more money invested in its program than these figures show, since they benefit from Phil Knight's donations. But Mississippi State has had back-to-back top-20 seasons despite spending a meager amount, relative to its competition.

Maryland and NC State had the smallest discrepancies between their spending and on-field performance, which puts them right on our chart's dotted line.

Syracuse, Colorado, and Virginia had the most distance between their spending and on-field rankings. Those teams have been so awful on the field, they don't come close to living up to their pedestrian spending. The Orange have spent an average of $18.2 million, with only three bowl trips to show for it.

Before you make too much fun of Syracuse, take these with several grains of salt.

The accounting methods many of these schools use are quite dishonest. Schools will report inflated costs in order to keep their reported profits lower, so they can cry poor when asking taxpayers and students for financial assistance. To inflate costs, schools will charge their athletic programs for things like "overhead," "university fundraising," and even "library renovations." And when athletic programs give out scholarships, programs can get charged the full price for an out-of-state student even though the marginal cost to the school for bringing on an extra student is minimal.

In the 2014 fiscal year, 26 of the 115 schools in our data set (22.6 percent), reported profits of $0, meaning their football-related expenses and revenues were exactly equal. If we are to believe the accounting, about one-fourth of college football programs at the top level neither profit nor lose a single dollar.

The most entertaining case that stuck out was TCU, which claimed that in every single year from 2005 to 2011, the school perfectly balanced its football expenses and revenues.

And while this data has its limitations, it's good for giving you a ballpark estimate. It's uncertain which schools most exaggerate their spending, but it is certain that no matter how much they exaggerate there's no way in hell a school like Iowa State can report spending levels similar to Ohio State.

For what it's worth, there was a 0.79 correlation between schools' on-field rankings and their football-related expense rankings. In other words, there's a pretty strong relationship.

Here's everything.

This sortable table shows each team's average Massey ranking, average spending ranking, and average difference.


Conf. Success Spending Diff.
Akron MAC 103.7 100.8 -2.9
Alabama SEC 11.6 5.9 -5.7
Arizona P12 41.6 43.1 1.5
Arizona State P12 40.5 20.5 -20
Arkansas SEC 33.9 12.8 -21.1
Arkansas State SBC 79 112 33
Auburn SEC 29.4 2.5 -26.9
Ball State MAC 81 101.9 20.9
Baylor B12 44 45.8 1.8
Boise State MWC 20.6 83.3 62.7
Boston College ACC 54.5 28 -26.5
Bowling Green MAC 77.4 109.1 31.7
Buffalo MAC 96.3 101.6 5.3
BYU FBSI 29.1 63.3 34.2
Cal P12 48.5 27.9 -20.6
Central Michigan MAC 77.1 97.7 20.6
Cincinnati AAC 37.5 65.9 28.4
Clemson ACC 24.6 28 3.4
Colorado P12 85.9 44.8 -41.1
Colorado State MWC 86.9 77.6 -9.3
Connecticut AAC 69.5 51.8 -17.7
Duke ACC 76.6 42.1 -34.5
East Carolina AAC 63.2 77.6 14.4
Eastern Michigan MAC 114.2 104.9 -9.3
Florida SEC 20.1 11.3 -8.8
FAU CUSA 97 102.9 5.9
FIU CUSA 103.7 88.2 -15.5
Florida State ACC 21.4 30.4 9
Fresno State MWC 70 83.7 13.7
Georgia SEC 19.5 16.8 -2.7
Georgia Tech ACC 41.2 44.9 3.7
Hawaii MWC 79.7 76.3 -3.4
Houston AAC 51.5 80.7 29.2
Idaho SBC 108.6 110 1.4
Illinois B10 71.4 56.1 -15.3
Indiana B10 83.4 50.5 -32.9
Iowa B10 40 15.1 -24.9
Iowa State B12 78.1 56.8 -21.3
Kansas B12 78.2 47.7 -30.5
Kansas State B12 46.5 57.1 10.6
Kent State MAC 98.2 110 11.8
Kentucky SEC 65 51.5 -13.5
UL-Lafayette SBC 87.8 106.9 19.1
ULM SBC 97.7 115.7 18
Louisiana Tech CUSA 74.5 106.5 32
Louisville ACC 44.7 44 -0.7
LSU SEC 11.7 13.2 1.5
Marshall CUSA 74.5 88.2 13.7
Maryland B10 65.7 65.3 -0.4
Memphis AAC 90.9 73.4 -17.5
Miami ACC 44.9 17.2 -27.7
Miami (Ohio) MAC 105.8 93.8 -12
Michigan B10 38.8 19.9 -18.9
Michigan State B10 30.3 24.2 -6.1
MTSU CUSA 83 87.9 4.9
Minnesota B10 65.9 45.4 -20.5
Mississippi State SEC 42.1 64.1 22
Missouri SEC 28.8 49.6 20.8
NC State ACC 61.9 61.7 -0.2
Nebraska B10 30.3 26.3 -4
Nevada MWC 64.4 100.3 35.9
New Mexico MWC 96.5 87.3 -9.2
New Mexico State SBC 115.3 97.9 -17.4
North Carolina ACC 49.5 43.7 -5.8
North Texas CUSA 107.3 104.9 -2.4
NIU MAC 60.1 90.4 30.3
Northwestern B10 57.3 36.3 -21
Notre Dame FBSI 32.8 10 -22.8
Ohio MAC 79.1 92.1 13
Ohio State B10 10.4 7 -3.4
Oklahoma B12 11.2 13.2 2
Oklahoma State B12 25.1 41.6 16.5
Ole Miss SEC 45.1 55.1 10
Oregon P12 11.3 33.1 21.8
Oregon State P12 44.8 60.2 15.4
Penn State B10 33 14.9 -18.1
Pitt ACC 47.3 36.5 -10.8
Purdue B10 77.7 52.2 -25.5
Rice CUSA 83.4 67.2 -16.2
Rutgers B10 52.9 27.8 -25.1
San Diego State MWC 73.4 71 -2.4
San Jose State MWC 85 101 16
SMU AAC 88.4 59.6 -28.8
South Carolina SEC 32.8 20.7 -12.1
South Florida AAC 62.2 67.8 5.6
Southern Miss CUSA 75.8 95.5 19.7
Stanford P12 30.9 40 9.1
Syracuse ACC 77 30.9 -46.1
TCU B12 22.5 18.4 -4.1
Temple AAC 80.2 65.5 -14.7
Tennessee SEC 42 25.7 -16.3
Texas B12 26.5 8.1 -18.4
Texas A&M SEC 35.2 30.6 -4.6
Texas Tech B12 75.1 40 -35.1
Toledo MAC 73.9 94.4 20.5
Troy SBC 105.7 109.5 3.8
Tulane AAC 66.9 81.2 14.3
Tulsa AAC 101.1 74 -27.1
UCF AAC 65 69.6 4.6
UCLA P12 43.9 27.8 -16.1
UNLV MWC 102.6 87 -15.6
USC P12 17.5 13.3 -4.2
Utah P12 33.5 63.6 30.1
Utah State MWC 77.9 106.4 28.5
UTEP CUSA 98.4 82.5 -15.9
Va Tech ACC 28.5 20.9 -7.6
Vanderbilt SEC 67.1 36.7 -30.4
Virginia ACC 68.9 30.6 -38.3
Wake Forest ACC 67.5 54.5 -13
Washington P12 51.5 17.7 -33.8
Washington State P12 76.3 69.3 -7
West Virginia B12 31 44.7 13.7
Western Michigan MAC 80.8 99.1 18.3
Wisconsin B10 21.4 12.1 -9.3
Wyoming MWC 90.3 95.9 5.6

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