Horizontal bar chart of sports revenue by college conference and segment

Most Valuable College Sports Conferences

College football and basketball are big business, generating over $36 million per school for the schools in the SEC.  This revenue comes from the conference's TV deal and from their appearances in bowl games and in March Madness (the men's basketball tournament).  While the SEC is the most profitable conference, the next four conferences all bring in over $20M per school in sports revenue.  The Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and ACC rely on a similar mix of TV, football and basketball revenue.

There is a big drop in revenue, most notably in TV deals, for the next 5 most valuable conferences.  The American, Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA and Mid-American each earn between $2M and $6M per school.  They lack the lucrative TV deals of the top 5.  For all but the basketball-only Big East, football bowl appearances is their largest revenue source.

The bar chart below summarizes revenue for the 2014-2015 fiscal year and is based on data from Forbes:

Sports revenue from the top 10 major conferences broken down into TV, football bowls and basketball tournaments. The SEC leads all others with over $500M in total and almost $37M per school. The top 5 all received over $20M per school. TV revenue made up by the the largest share.

I chose the horizontal layout for the bar chart to make it easy to read the list of conferences in order of profitability from top to bottom.  The bars make it clear that there is a divide between the top 5 and the next 5 conferences.  The series show that the revenue mix also differs with the top 5 relying on TV and four of the next 5 relying on football bowls for the largest revenue share.

I sorted each bar so that the largest revenue share appears first.  I added a data column to show revenue per school, which for the most part, corresponds with total revenue.  I added a legend to explain each series and used three very different colors for each series.  I left out the values for each segment (e.g., you cannot see how much revenue the ACC earned from football bowls.  My purpose was to show the overall magnitude of conference revenue and the relative size of each part.  The 30 numbers would clutter the chart and would not add to the story.

Here is the chart in SlideShare to download and edit using Mekko Graphics: