Illinois Is The Least Valuable Football Program In The Big Ten

Jonathan Daniel

According to a study in the Wall Street Journal, if college football programs could be bought like NFL teams, Illinois would be the cheapest Big Ten team on the market. For now, anyway.

Anybody got $117,300,000 laying around? Because that's what it would take to buy the Illinois football program if you actually could buy a college football program. And you can't. No matter how often Boone Pickens and Phil Knight try too.

The Wall Street Journal cites a study that uses a number of different factors to determine how much a college football program would be worth if they were able to be bought and sold like NFL franchises.

Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, calculated the intrinsic valuations for 115 of the teams in the top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision. Among other factors, the study looked at each program's revenues and expenses and made cash-flow adjustments, risk assessments and growth projections for each school. The resulting figures represent what the teams might fetch if they could be bought and sold like pro franchises. (As a point of reference, the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars sold in late 2011 for about $760 million.)

The kicker with Illinois is that we would be the least valuable "franchise" in the Big Ten. Here are how all the Big Ten schools fare in the study.

School, Value in millions, Rank

Michigan, $731.9, 2nd
Ohio State, $586.6, 5th
Iowa, $384.4, 11th
Nebraska, $360.1, 13th
Penn State, $300.8, 16th
Wisconsin, $296.1, 17th
Michigan State, $224.8, 21st
Northwestern, $148.8, 35th
Purdue, $145.1, 38th
Indiana, $142.7, 40th
Minnesota, $139.7, 42nd
Illinois, $117.3, 48th

Now, while I'm not surprised that we'd be ranked last, I am surprised by the difference between us and Minnesota. While there's a huge drop from Michigan State to Northwestern, Northwestern and Minnesota are separated by just over $9 million. And then there's a $22 million drop in worth to Illinois.

The other surprise is that Iowa would be ranked third and ahead of Nebraska. I mean, both programs are pretty much located in the middle of nowhere, so geography can't be a difference maker. And Nebraska has a much better history and a very loyal fanbase.

Back to Illinois, while it sucks to be in last place, there is some good news. We're only in last place until Maryland ($96.0, 56th) and Rutgers ($64.1, 63rd) join the Big Ten. Though I'm sure a new home will increase their worth, I don't think it'll be enough to surpass the Illini.

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