The big-budget schools aren't afraid to spend -- in part because they can -- and the results are usually positive.
Except in eastern Alabama.
Six of the nation's seven schools with athletic department expenses topping the $100 million mark have a combined record of 37-6 this season -- Florida (7-0), Alabama (7-0), Ohio State (8-0), Texas (5-2), Michigan (5-2) and Penn State (5-2). The expense data is from USA Today, which detailed revenues and expenses at Division-I public schools from 2006-11.
And then there's the seventh school, Auburn, which is setting a bad precedent in the "Fun with Numbers" Wins-to-Expenses ratios.
Below are examples of five schools that either pay stomach-churning interest rates on wins or are finding Tiffany's jewelry at the flea market. Strength of schedule does not affect the bottom line in this case. Maybe we'll tweak the formula at a later date.
$100.5 million: The Wins-to-Expenses ratio for Auburn. That's one win, $100.5 million in expenses. The Tigers have the third-highest expense margin in the Southeastern Conference, behind Florida ($107.2 million) and rival Alabama ($105.1 million). Those two programs have seven wins apiece, clearly a return on investment. Auburn has enough tradition/booster base to survive a season like this, but revenues of nearly $104 million rarely result in one win by late October.
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Right now, Auburn is like the startup restaurant that rents a 25,000-square-foot space for what should be a taco truck.
$7.37 million: Wins-to-Expenses ratio for Mississippi State. Seven wins, $51.6 million. Coach Dan Mullen and athletic director Scott Stricklin know how to run a business -- keep overhead low, put out a solid product and count the satisfied customers. If Mississippi State keeps winning big, that budget will continue to rise. In August, the Bulldogs finalized a $75 million renovation plan for Davis-Wade Stadium.
$26.7 million: W-to-E ratio for Texas. Five wins, $133.7 million. Hard to argue with a Texas business model that corrals $150.3 million in revenue, more than anybody in college football. And the Longhorns' W-to-E ratio is reasonable on the national scale. But we all know that 63-21 loss to Oklahoma should knock down this value by at least an additional $5 million. The ratio is steady, but the stock is plummeting. A shaky 2012 business model, to be sure.
$32.5 million: W-to-E ratio for Tennessee. Three wins, $97.6 million. The Vols' sizable budget is still a little jarring considering the program hasn't won more than seven games since 2007. That's where six national titles and a healthy donor base kicks in. Clearly Tennessee needs this number to improve, which is still a possibility for the fighting Dooleys entering this week's matchup with reeling South Carolina.
$2.9 million: W-to-E ratio for Louisiana Tech. Six wins, $17.1 million. Bravo, Sonny Dykes and the Bulldogs. This is like the low-budget Internet startup that never makes billions but doesn't have to, relying on low costs and a reliable product to turn a comfortable profit. Louisiana Tech has a reported revenue stream of $17.1 million, but that could be on the rise after this season.
108: Margin of victory for Oklahoma in its past three games (156-48 over Texas Tech, Texas, Kansas). Would love to see a Kansas State-Oklahoma rematch (which we won't since there is no Big 12 title game). The Sooners are clearly a different team since that 24-19 loss to the Wildcats on Sept. 22. Blake "Belldozer" Bell is scoring on less than every fourth rush (eight touchdowns on 31 touches), and quarterback Landry Jones is starting to look comfortable.
699: Number of days since Alabama gave up more than 14 points to a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. Auburn scored 28 in a Nov. 26, 2010, win. FCS opponent Georgia Southern curiously scored 21 points on the Tide on Nov. 19, 2011. That number should increase after Saturday. Expect the Mississippi State-Alabama showdown to be low-scoring Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.
17: Number of tackles for a loss for Texas A&M defensive lineman Damontre Moore, the national leader by 2½. Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney garner the most attention as vaunted SEC pass rushers, but Moore is legit. Deserves the shout-out.