Texas A&M scored a treasured first over rival Texas on Tuesday when the Aggie football program was named the nation's most valuable in the sport by Forbes Magazine.
A&M averaged $148 million revenue per year for the 2014-16 seasons, topping second-place Texas by $15 million. The Aggies' profited $107 million per year, $20 million more than Texas.
The other Top 10 revenue producing schools according to the magazine were Michigan ($127 million), Alabama ($127 million), Ohio State ($120 million), Oklahoma ($118 million), Notre Dame ($112 million), Auburn ($112 million), LSU ($112 million) and Florida ($111 million).
A&M ranked 16th with $71 million the last time Forbes ranked football programs in 2015. A&M athletic director Scott Woodward said a basic formula vaulted the Aggies to the top.
"It's simple: a combination of the greatest, most committed fans, donors and students combined with being in the nation's finest conference," Woodward said.
A&M averaged 103,493 fans per home game from 2014-16, topped only by Michigan (108,604) and Ohio State (106,939). A&M typically exceeds 30,000 students for home games and claimed an NCAA student record 38,800 students for the Lamar game in 2014.
Contributions -- $260 million during the study's time frame -- played a big part in A&M's jump in revenue. The donations helped the Aggies renovate Kyle Field for $485 million and spend another $68 million to build Davis Diamond for the softball team and E.B. Cushing Stadium for the track team.
"It's always been evident that Aggies are committed to excellence; they have always backed up that commitment," Woodward said. "The level of commitment really isn't a surprise once you've been here a little while."
A&M's contributions from 2014-16 nearly doubled Florida's $123 million, which ranked second.
"We have always had the best, most loyal fan base in the nation with the 12th Man," A&M chancellor John Sharp said in a statement. "What was missing was the best facilities and coaches that fan base deserved. Problem solved!"
Along with improving Kyle Field, the Aggies hired coach Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State for a 10-year, $75 million guaranteed contract. Fisher has paid huge dividends on the recruiting trail as A&M currently has the third-ranked 2019 recruiting class behind Georgia and Alabama, according to Rivals.com. Texas's class is currently ranked 15th.
Woodward, who has been A&M's AD since January 2016, worked with Fisher at LSU and said the way to keep the momentum of being the most valuable football program is to win.
"We are committed to winning championships," Woodward said. "We don't back away from that commitment."
A&M has done well in ticket revenue, ranking third by averaging $41 million per year, and sixth in royalties and licensing. A&M also has benefitted from joining the powerful Southeastern Conference, which has won nine of the last 12 national championships in football. The league gave A&M approximately $41 million as its share of the league's revenue distribution from the 2017 fiscal year. That's $7 million more than went to members of the Big 12 Conference, which A&M left in 2012 to join the SEC.
Texas is a strong second in Forbes' list because it ranks in the Top 5 for contributions, ticket sales, endowments, concessions and youth camps. Texas' $31 million from licensing, royalties and advertising is 50 percent more than any other school, Forbes reported. Texas gets $10 million per year from Nike, third in the country for apparel behind UCLA and Louisville. A&M is an Adidas school, getting $7.7 million per year from a contract that runs through 2022, according to Forbes. Texas also will get $11.6 million this year from ESPN for the Longhorn Network, a contract that runs through June 2031.
Forbes, which used data from athletic department financial filings made to the NCAA and Department of Education, discovered that Alabama spends an average of $68 million per year. That's 22 percent more than any other team.
In Forbes' previous rankings for the most valuable college football program in 2015, Texas was No. 1 for a seventh straight year at $152 million, followed by Notre Dame ($127 million), Tennessee ($121 million), LSU ($111 million), Michigan ($105 million), Georgia ($102 million), Ohio State ($100 million), Alabama ($99 million), Oklahoma ($96 million) and Auburn ($89 million). A&M ranked only eighth in the SEC, also trailing Arkansas 12th ($80 million) and Florida 15th ($72 million).
A&M wasn't even mentioned in Forbes' 2015 story, but 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and Fisher-coached Florida State were. FSU ranked 17th that year at $70 million. FSU had been just outside Forbes' Top 20 for years, but the magazine said Winston's impact in leading the Seminoles to the national championship put the Seminoles over the edge. FSU football revenue increased by $13 million, nearly half of which was from increased ticket sales. Florida State remains 17th in these rankings, with an increase to $88 million.
While A&M jumped 15 spots, a pair of SEC schools had the biggest drops. Georgia went from sixth to 16th and Tennessee from third to 11th. Forbes this time expanded its list five spots, allowing Ole Miss (No. 21) and Texas Tech (No. 25) to make the Top 25.