Forbes's latest best guess at the most valuable college football programs is out, and if you're a Texas fan, congratulations: Your slavering devotion to the Death Star of the Big 12 has paid off once again. You're number one! Granted, you're in the "also receiving votes" category in the AP's poll of on-the-field results, but because your free-spending habits don't change much in down years, the program you support keeps right on crankin'. Fair weather fans, the Longhorns faithful are not. Still, it has to be strange to see the likes of Northern Illinois, Utah State, San Jose State and Kent State ranked. But sometimes it takes a certain something—a keen minimalist aesthetic, perhaps?—to do less with more. Bravo, Bevo.
While Texas nudged up 3 percent to $133 million, though, Michigan rose some 28 percent to $120 million, in the second slot. Notre Dame actually lost 8 percent to settle at third, with $103 million, though after this year, when the Irish will reap a BCS bowl bounty, including a $6.2 million payout, they figure to bounce back. The rest of the top 10 is all SEC: LSU ($102 million) and Georgia ($99 million) round out the top five, followed by Alabama ($95 million), Florida ($93 million), Auburn ($85 million), Tennessee ($84 million) and Arkansas ($83 million).
Aside from the fact that seven of the top 10 are SEC teams, the striking characteristic is how traditional these powers are. For all the recent insurrections in college football, there's nary a Kansas State or Louisville or Boise State or Virginia Tech or even Miami among the pigskin plutocracy. Of those 10 teams listed, only five were in the AP's top 20 last season. But in 1997, that total was eight of the 10. In 1988, seven were. They were five of the top eight in 1983, and six of 1978. Eight of them were in the top 20 in 1969. They were six of the top seven in '64. They were seven of the top 16 in 1942. Half of them finished in the AP top 20 in '36. I'm cherry-picking on these slightly, but not much; ignoring the retreat of the Ivy League as football powers, this has been a remarkably steady game. Throughout realignment, the rise of cable, the expansion of the game, the BCS, ESPN, Notre Dame's recent decades of sucking, and all the rest, the power structure of college football is, as the Talking Heads or the talking heads could tell you, same as it ever was.