Big Ten Ticket Revenue

Last Updated on April 20, 2011

The Big Ten is the most interesting conference to look at when it comes to ticket revenue. Why, you might ask? Because it is the only conference that still engages in revenue sharing when it comes to gate receipts.

Yes, you heard that right. Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State do not get the full benefit of having some of the largest football stadiums in college football. You know how members of the U.S. Marine Corps say their priorities or code are, “Unit, Corps, God, Country”? When it comes to college athletics, it’s “Conference, Football, School, Athlete”.

According to the Big Ten, revenue sharing for gate receipts has been a staple of the conference since the 1950s. Back then, teams shared 50% of their gate receipts with no minimum or maximum per game.

Today, the Big Ten shares gate receipts from both football and men’s basketball. For football, schools contribute 35% of the gate receipts for all home games against conference opponents. The minimum contribution per game is $300,000 and the maximum is $1 million, making the maximum for the season $4 million. The pool is divided equally between all schools.

One important thing to note is that the gate receipt total from which the 35% is taken does not include premiums paid for suites, club seats or the like. For example, if a school requires a minimum donation in order to qualify for season tickets or a suite, that donation amount is not included, only the face value on the tickets. Similarly, if the cost of a suite is $10,000, but the face value on the ticket is only $4,000, it is the latter amount that is used for revenue sharing purposes.

Here’s what each team in the Big Ten contributed for the 2009 football season:

Penn State Univ.$4,000,000.00
Univ. of Michigan$4,000,000.00
Ohio State Univ.$4,000,000.00
Univ. of Iowa$3,700,000.00
Univ. of Wisconsin$3,600,000.00
Michigan State Univ.$3,600,000.00
Univ. of Illinois$2,400,000.00
Purdue Univ.$2,200,000.00
Univ. of Minnesota$2,100,000.00
Indiana Univ.$1,600,000.00
Northwestern Univ.$1,200,000.00

As a result, some schools are recipients under the revenue sharing program and others are payors. The distribution for football after the 2009 season was $2.95 million per school, meaning Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana and Northwestern were net recipients.

Schools in the Big Ten also share gate receipts for men’s basketball. The percentage contributed to the pool from each school 25%, with a $29,000 floor and a $67,000 ceiling. Like the football pool, the men’s basketball revenue sharing pool is divided evenly between all schools within the Big Ten.

For the 2009-2010 school year, only three schools received a net profit from revenue sharing of men’s basketball gate receipts: Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State.

The amount received by each school for gate receipt revenue sharing is only a small percentage of the total amount each school shows for ticket revenue. Here is the total ticket revenue generated by each school for the 2009-2010 school year and the percentage of total athletic department revenue ticket sales account for:

 SchoolTicket Sales% of Total Revenue
1Penn State Univ.$41,836,815.0039%
2Univ. of Michigan$41,715,138.0039%
3Ohio State Univ.$39,515,387.0032%
4Univ. of Wisconsin$25,732,357.0027%
5Michigan State Univ.$23,504,865.0028%
6Univ. of Iowa$21,815,895.0025%
7Univ. of Minnesota$21,514,964.0027%
8Univ. of Illinois$17,861,359.0024%
9Purdue Univ.$16,587,166.0027%
10Indiana Univ.$13,346,437.0019%

If you’re curious how much of the total ticket revenue football accounts for, The Gazette reports that Iowa football brought in $19,280,000 in 2009. I don’t think it’s surprising to learn that over 88% of total ticket revenue (in Iowa’s case) is generated by football.

Please note, Northwestern’s total ticket sales numbers are unavailable because it is a private institution and not subject to open records requests.

I’m curious to hear what you all think about revenue sharing of gate receipts. If you’re a fan of a Big Ten team, are you in favor of the revenue sharing system? If you’re a fan of a team in another conference, do you wish your conference had it?


  • Kristi Dosh

    Kristi A. Dosh is the founder of and has served as a sports business analyst and contributor for outlets such as Forbes, ESPN, SportsBusiness Journal, Bleacher Report, SB Nation and more. She is also the author of a book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires. Kristi is a sought-after consultant and speaker on topics related to the business of college sports and a former practicing attorney. Click to learn more

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  • FectosRoad
    April 21, 2011

    All schools benefit when each school in the conference has large enough budget to compete. Fans can expect that games against conference opponents will be competitive. Further, allowing each school to field a competitive team enhances the quality of the conference. I’m sure after every upset, the losing school wants to reassess this policy.

  • matt
    April 21, 2011

    I’m all for it in this case. Northwestern for example may not contribute as much on the athletic side but they more than make up for it in the academic department. Everybody has their place in the conference and I think this works out best for everyone involved. Some people have compared it to being socialist but I don’t see it that way. I look at the Big Ten as a company and doing whats best for the company. Now if all college football teams had to share equally I would look at that as being socialist, but not our system.