KNOXVILLE – Tennessee’s football teams hasn’t been in the Top 10 of a major poll since 2006, but that doesn’t mean its overall value as a program has fallen out of that range.
The Vols ranked ninth nationally in a study conducted by Forbes.com of the value of college football programs in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The Vols were valued at $84 million, a two-percent increase from the previous year. That qualifies them for sixth in the SEC behind LSU (4), Georgia (5), Alabama (6), Florida (7) and Auburn (8). Texas (1), Michigan (2), Notre Dame (3) and Arkansas (10) round out the rest of the Top 10. South Carolina (17) is the other SEC program in the Top 25.
The Vols brought in $55 million in revenue and profited $35 million, according to the report.
Forbes used a weighted scoring system to measure the value created in four important areas:
1. Value to its university: How much football profit contributed to academics, including the money used to pay for the scholarships of the football student-athletes.
2. Value to its athletic department: Profit generated by the football team that helps fund other areas and teams of the athletic department.
3. Value to its conference: How much bowl revenue is brought in that was split up among the rest of the conference.
4. Value to its surrounding community: How much money it brings in to the local economy on home game weekends.
Tennessee announced on Nov. 20 that $6 million per year will be reinvested in the athletics department for the next three years for a total of $18 million.
Though the football team continues to generate a healthy profit, the athletics department as a whole has been on shaky financial ground recently due to heavy investment in upgrading facilities, declining ticket sales and other factors.
Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart discussed some of the financial difficulties after announcing the dismissal of former coach Derek Dooley on Nov. 18.
“We have a $1.9 million reserve which in the SEC is unheard of,” Hart said. “We complete against people who have reserves of about 50-100 million dollars. We are in a tough position financially. The Chancellor [Jimmy Cheek] doesn't want us to be at a competitive disadvantage of any nature whether it be financial, or academic or in any other arena where we are trying to compete and get back into the top of that pyramid.
“We are in a tenuous position, at a crossroads with our athletics program. But, we have people who understand that and are committed to helping us overcome those obstacles. That won't be a detriment, is it a concern? Yes it is a concern."
New coach Butch Jones received a six-year contract worth approximately $18 million. The Vols will also owe Dooley approximately $1.3 million per year through 2016 in buyout money along with various other buyout payments to some former assistant coaches.