When discussing Northwestern's struggles to compete with the top teams in the Big Ten, a bunch of different factors come up — small and spread out alumni base, lack of local interest, not enough money allocated to sports, bad facilities, etc. But it always comes back to the same thing: NU lacks the resources necessary to compete.
It's tough to quantify a statement like that, but each year Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University-Columbus, attempts to show how much each college football team is worth. The Wall Street Journal compiled the list, and NU checks in at 40th in the nation and ninth in the Big Ten.
According to WSJ's article on the valuations last year, "among other factors, the study looked at each program's revenues and expenses and made cash-flow adjustments, risk assessments and growth projections for each school." This year, the Wildcats' football program is estimated to be $154.5 million, up from $148.8 million in 2013. Not surprisingly, the Big Ten was one of the two most valuable conferences, along with the SEC. Michigan (3), Ohio State (4), Iowa (11), Nebraska (12), Wisconsin (13) and Penn State (14) all rank in the top 15 in the nation. Every Big Ten school but Illinois made the top 50.
Even though NU's "worth" has increased in the past year, the Wildcats actually rank lower than they did in 2013, dropping from 35th nationally to 40th. They were also passed up by Big Ten foe Minnesota.
Does this really matter? We got a couple tweets like that yesterday.
The answer is no, but studies are allowed to be fun without being particularly relevant. Brewer went into the study knowing that college football teams are not going to be bought and sold like NFL franchises.
However, the study does give us an interesting look at the "low resource" mantra. Compared to Michigan ($685.5 million) and Ohio State ($674.8 million), or even Iowa ($479.1 million) and ($377.6 million), NU is at a disadvantage, resource-wise. However, the Wildcats still hold their own in the national picture. And a small private school team to not be the least valuable school in its conference — especially holding more value than the major in-state public school's team — is pretty impressive.