FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In Part 1 of this deep dive series into the numbers to see what is holding Arkansas back financially from competing at the highest possible level against the rest of the SEC, it quickly became obvious that fans support in the way of ticket sales was not the answer.

Not only was ticket revenue not a problem, it was a strength that put the Razorbacks’ bottom line millions, and in many cases, tens of millions ahead of the rest of the SEC. Only Texas A&M found a way to consistently hang with the ticket purchasing power of Hogs fans.

So, if fans are filling the coffers at such a dominant level, the next logical place to turn is sponsorship from various businesses and organizations. After all, Arkansas is perceived as a program that isn’t a power player when it comes to the national spotlight while much of the SEC is loaded with prominent high profile programs.

It stands to reason this is an area where much of the SEC, especially those with traditionally dominant football programs, along with Kentucky in basketball, can make up a lot of ground. Whether it’s enough to make up the large lead the Hogs carry in ticket sales remains to be seen, but it’s definitely an opportunity to at least pull even.

Just like with the dive into ticket revenue, this will start out with a direct comparison to Alabama and Georgia, the heavy powered stalwarts of the SEC’s national spotlight for the past decade, using statistics generated by the Knight-Newhouse College Data Base. Then the scope will widen to incorporate the rest of the league to get a true perspective as to where the Razorbacks truly fall when it comes to landing those important sponsorship dollars.

To clarify, what is specifically being looked at is how much money Arkansas draws from corporate sponsorships, advertising and licensing deals. While the data doesn’t include the latest athletics cycle, it does go all the way back to 2005, so there is more than enough of a sample to get a clear picture.

Surprisingly, Arkansas is highly competitive. The gap definitely isn’t enough to make up ground on the big lead the Razorbacks built in ticket sales.

Below is the corporate revenue chart for 2022. Georgia’s money comes from a season where the Bulldogs won their first national championship and had five years as legitimate national contenders that included a playoff appearance to sell an association with the athletics department as a valuable product.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas administration finishes essentially tied with Georgia and blows Alabama off the financial map by selling sponsors on the darkest stretch of Razorbacks football in school history, a Mike Anderson basketball run that got him fired, and the debut of a little known coach named Eric Musselman whose first team needed a couple of more SEC Tournament wins to make the NCAA Tournament before COVID shut things down. The Hogs were essentially selling bowls of refried beans and burnt rice with tap water while Alabama and Georgia were serving up filet mignon and perfectly seasoned seafood with the finest drinks, yet somehow generated huge sales.

Only twice since 2005 did both Alabama and Georgia generate more corporate revenue than Arkansas. Most of the time the Hogs either topped both or found themselves essentially tied with whichever of the two jumped into the lead for that particular year.

In an ironic twist, and Razorbacks fans will have to swallow hard on this one, once Jeff Long’s much maligned deal with Pepsi kicked in, Arkansas seized solid control of the corporate dollars game. Six times after the contract went into effect, the Hogs either outdrew both or found themselves within a few hundred thousand dollars of the highest amount.

Despite their powerful brands, Alabama and Georgia combined don’t have as many years of $20 million or more in corporate revenue as Arkansas. The Razorbacks have three and likely would have had more if COVID hadn’t slowed things down for a couple of years. Meanwhile, Georgia has two, both associated with football national championship years, while the Crimson Tide have never hit $20 million in corporate money.

This means, when factoring in ticket sales and corporate revenue, neither Georgia nor Alabama is able to compete with the financial juggernaut that is Razorback athletics. In 2019, Arkansas drew over $5 million more than Georgia and $10 million more than Alabama. Literally half the schools at the FBS level bring in $5 million or less total, much less draw twice that amount over one of the most well known athletics programs in the country,.

To make the outlook even more glum for these big brand schools, since the arrival of Hunter Yurachek, Arkansas has become stronger in the corporate game. The Hogs are averaging over $20 million, four times what more than half of all of college sports is bringing in, since the COVID drag ended.

Even during COVID Yurachek was able to squeeze out $15 million in back-to-back years. Alabama and Georgia didn’t touch that number.

So, with Arkansas potentially pulling further ahead of Alabama and Georgia in total revenue rather than falling behind when it comes to getting businesses behind the program, where do the Razorbacks fall in the wider scope of the entire SEC?

Let’s start with the biggest stunner. Despite being so beloved and so adept at making bold moves, the numbers show former Arkansas athletics director Frank Broyles either lacked the desire or didn’t have the skills to leverage business connections within the Razorbacks community.

Arkansas suffered to a heavy degree until his successors dug the Hogs out of the financial ditch on the corporate side. Once Long and Yurachek got things rolling, the Razorbacks regularly finished first or second in the league or within very close striking distance.

Despite a grumbling, never pleased fan base, they were able to overcome a climate that had other SEC schools drawing three times as much money while Arkansas toiled near the bottom of the rankings. If the job is to put backsides in seats and pile on advertising, sponsorship and licensing money, then both Long and Yurachek have been highly successful running the administration.

Below is a list of where Arkansas finished in the SEC corporate revenue rankings. Any years where the Hogs don’t finish first includes which school did and how much more money it collected than the Razorbacks.

2005: No. 7 (Florida / $4.5 million)
2006: No. 6 (Florida / $5.5 million)
2007: No. 6 (Tennessee / $10.9 million)
2008: No. 10 (Florida / $7.9 million)
2009: No. 10 (Florida / $7 million)
2010: No. 5 (Texas A&M / $3.3 million)
2011: No. 4 (Texas A&M / $2.8 million)*
2012: No. 2 (Texas A&M / $950,000)
2013: No. 3 (Texas A&M / $180,000)
2014: No. 2 (Alabama / $3.7 million)
2015: No. 4 (Tennessee / $2.9 million)
2016: No. 2 (Texas A&M / $2.8 million)
2017: No. 3 (Texas A&M / $5 million)
2018: No. 2 (Texas A&M / $3.3 million)
2019: No. 1 ($3.3 million)
2020: No. 2 (Texas A&M / $2.1 million)
2021: No. 2 (Tennessee / $700,000)
2022: No. 4 (Texas A&M / $1.1 million)
2023: No. 4 (Texas A&M / $3.7 million)
* Not yet in the SEC

Given the numbers from ticket sales and corporate funding, it would stand to reason that Arkansas and Texas A&M should be running the SEC. To a degree, the Razorbacks are.

Overall, there are few athletics departments that can compete with the Hogs in terms of sheer number of division and conference championships. Still, in college sports, and especially the SEC, so much weight is placed on football where time and again, lack of money has been blamed for Arkansas not hiring big name coaches and signing the best players.

There are obviously other financial factors that have to be considered at least from the standpoint of player acquisition, but the idea that Arkansas had to hire basketball coaches still looking to make a name or off the grid choices at times in football doesn’t align well with how the base numbers are shaking out.

Additional stories will continue to explore the numbers, but this is a good place to see exactly where the Razorbacks stand with the financial elites of the SEC. The Hogs are compared below with any school that had a year that ranked first in either ticket or corporate revenue. The numbers reflect the total combined amount of the past decade.

1. Texas A&M … $621,932,784
2. Arkansas … $522,207,030
3. Alabama … $499,305,359
4. Tennessee … $485,502,344
5. LSU $431,293,433
6. Florida … $368,215,656

When it comes to making bank in the SEC, the Razorbacks’ fans and corporate partners are truly elite. Arkansas is No. 2 by a large margin only behind the Aggies and their Uncle Scrooge level money vault.

LSU should have been competitive with the Hogs, but the Tigers’ administration has yet to learn how to play well in the areas of sponsorship, licensing and advertising. It takes seven years down in the bayou to draw what Arkansas administrators have regularly produced in a single year.

So, with the fans and corporate entities doing too much to put Arkansas at the top, the dig continues. There are other variables that long before NIL kept the Hogs acting like programs that draw a fraction of the money the reports have displayed so far, so they too will be explored in the coming days.

Eventually the root cause will show itself. Either it’s simply a defeatist mentality or there’s a source of money that dramatically tips the scales in a completely different direction.

HOGS FEED:

• Baseball continues to stack talent via transfer portal

• Tennessee’s Vitello reaffirms Arkansas program, Van Horn’s status as elite coach

 Two Razorbacks punch ticket to Olympics

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