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Louisville is college basketball's most valuable team for 5th straight year

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For the fifth consecutive season, Forbes has determined that the Louisville Cardinals are the most valuable team in college basketball, out-earning Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana and North Carolina.

There is some fiscal movement within that elite club this year - Louisville's value is up 19% to $45.4 million, while Kansas is down 13% to $30.8 million - but that's just representative of the usual year-to-year swings in athletic department finances. Last season Louisville saw revenue increases across the board, including an additional $3 million from ticket sales, while expenses stayed mostly flat. Kansas meanwhile had to pay its coaches an extra $2 million while contributions to the athletic department fell by nearly $5 million.

The Cardinals' hold on the top spot is secure as can be for now, but that wide berth on the rest of the field may soon erode thanks to the recent accusations that players and recruits attended on-campus sex parties arranged by a team staffer. This year's self-imposed postseason ban won't be financially disastrous for the team, but it will hurt the ACC. Last year Louisville generated $5 million for the conference from its tournament success, second-most behind only Kentucky. Since conference distributions are based on tourney performances over the previous six years, the ACC will feel the sting of this year's ban for years to come.

And the NCAA is still investigating the situation, so more punishment may be coming down the road. We won't know the full extent of any sanctions, or how they will impact the team's books, for quite some time, but if the NCAA brings the hammer down on Louisville then we may finally see the Cardinals give up their top spot. That could be especially true as more details about the scandal continue to emerge - just this weekend three former recruits reportedly confirmed the allegations. Enough bad press could lead to a loss of alumni contributions to the athletic department, a major revenue stream that last year totaled $29 million.


To figure out our list of the sport's most valuable programs we look at three key areas for which college basketball's top teams generate value: their universities, athletic departments and conferences. University value comes from academic spending, including both player scholarships and other university support, while value to the athletic department is measured by the basketball team profits that go toward funding non-revenue sports like swimming or softball. Lastly, conference value comes from success in the NCAA Tournament; every non-championship tournament game played grants a team's conference a "unit" that earns an annual payout over a six-year period.

You can read the full story, and see the full list of the 20 highest-earning programs in college basketball, right here.