In 2022, which college football programs are most valuable in conference realignment?

Zach Miller
Run It Back With Zach
4 min readJul 2, 2022


When Oklahoma and Texas announced their plans to head to the SEC last summer, I took a look at which college football programs are the most valuable in conference realignment.

With Southern Cal and UCLA announcing their moves to the Big Ten, and a domino effect sure to follow, it’s time to revisit that list.

The factors in play here are still the same as they were last summer. Conferences want the biggest brands and the largest fan bases. TV markets are still important, though nowhere near as important as they were in the pre-cord-cutting round of realignment a decade ago.

So just how much is each college football program worth? Only the suits at the TV networks can truly put a number on each program’s value. But there are a few different ways to measure each program’s value relative to each other.

Southern Cal and UCLA will join the Big Ten in 2024.

No single metric tells the whole story, so I tallied up each program’s ranking in five different categories. Here are the categories:

Home attendance: The number of people attending each home game is one way to measure the size and passion of a fan base. College Football News calculated the attendance average for every FBS school from 2015–19.

Market size/share: In 2011, Nate Silver calculated the number of fans of each college football team using market population and survey data. The data would certainly look a bit different if redone in 2022, but it’s the strongest methodology for determining the number of fans that I’ve seen.

Valuation: After the 2019 season, the Wall Street Journal calculated how much each college football program would be worth on the open market if it could be bought and sold like a professional sports franchise. The valuations take into account revenues and expenses, along with cash-flow adjustments, risk assessments and growth projections.

Social media following: It’s not perfect, but one easy way to measure the size of each fan base is to look at how many people follow each team on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). As TV moves over to digital, it’s valuable to look at which teams have the largest followings in the digital space.

TV viewership: Conferences expand with the goal of adding value to their TV deal, so what better metric to look at than TV viewership? I calculated each team’s average TV viewership from 2015–21 (not counting the 2020 season).

If you’re interested in the exact TV viewership numbers, here is the data from 2015–19, and here is the data from 2021.

Ranking the most valuable college football programs

Ohio State and Michigan are the two most-valuable college football programs.

After calculating each program’s ranking in those five categories, I dropped each schools’ highest and lowest metric, then averaged the rest. Here’s how 90 college football programs ranked from best to worst.

This list focuses strictly football because basketball rarely plays a large role in conference realignment.

I included all of the schools that are currently members of the ACC, AAC, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC, as well as Army and Notre Dame.

  1. Ohio State
  2. Michigan
  3. Alabama
  4. Notre Dame
  5. Georgia
  6. LSU
  7. Penn State
  8. Texas
  9. Auburn
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Florida
  12. Texas A&M
  13. Clemson
  14. Tennessee
  15. Wisconsin
  16. Nebraska
  17. Michigan State
  18. Florida State
  19. Southern Cal
  20. Iowa
  21. South Carolina
  22. Arkansas
  23. Mississippi
  24. Oregon
  25. Miami
  26. UCLA
  27. Washington
  28. Virginia Tech
  29. West Virginia
  30. Mississippi State
  31. Oklahoma State
  32. Kentucky
  33. Texas Tech
  34. Minnesota
  35. Arizona State
  36. TCU
  37. Utah
  38. Louisville
  39. Missouri
  40. Stanford
  41. North Carolina
  42. BYU
  43. Iowa State
  44. Georgia Tech
  45. Pittsburgh
  46. Indiana
  47. California
  48. NC State
  49. Kansas State
  50. Baylor
  51. Purdue
  52. Arizona
  53. Northwestern
  54. Illinois
  55. Colorado
  56. Maryland
  57. Virginia
  58. Rutgers
  59. Kansas
  60. Syracuse
  61. Oregon State
  62. UCF
  63. Boise State
  64. Washington State
  65. Houston
  66. Boston College
  67. South Florida
  68. Cincinnati
  69. Memphis
  70. Vanderbilt
  71. Army
  72. Duke
  73. Navy
  74. East Carolina
  75. Temple
  76. Fresno State
  77. Wake Forest
  78. Colorado State
  79. Wyoming
  80. San Diego State
  81. SMU
  82. Air Force
  83. Hawaii
  84. Nevada
  85. Tulane
  86. New Mexico
  87. Utah State
  88. Tulsa
  89. UNLV
  90. San Jose State

Best programs on the board

Notre Dame is currently independent for football but plays other sports in the ACC.

With the Big Ten news this week, there is a sentiment that the Big Ten and SEC may continue to grow in the future by picking off the top programs from other Power 5 conferences.

So which are the best programs not already in one of those two conferences? After Notre Dame, four of the next six are current ACC schools.

  1. Notre Dame (4th)
  2. Clemson (13th)
  3. Florida State (18th)
  4. Oregon (24th)
  5. Miami (25th)
  6. Washington (27th)
  7. Virginia Tech (28th)
  8. West Virginia (29th)
  9. Oklahoma State (31st)
  10. Texas Tech (33rd)

Best Group of 5 programs

Memphis and South Florida play in the American Athletic Conference.

The domino effect from the top conferences making moves often includes some programs moving up from the Group of 5 into the Power 5.

So which are the top programs that could be in line to make a jump? There really isn’t one school that stands much taller than the rest.

  1. Boise State (63rd)
  2. South Florida (67th)
  3. Memphis (69th)
  4. Army (71st)
  5. Navy (73rd)
  6. East Carolina (74th)
  7. Temple (75th)
  8. Fresno State (76th)
  9. Colorado State (78th)
  10. Wyoming (79th)

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Zach Miller
Run It Back With Zach