Record-breaking ticket and merchandise sales, national media coverage and an increase in donations: These are just a few areas where the University of Colorado Boulder has seen massive revenue growth due to the excitement around the CU Buffs football team and head coach Deion Sanders.
National media coverage, for example, has provided the university with “invaluable” national exposure, CU Boulder spokesperson Steve Hurlbert said.
There’s no money or contracts between the university and the pre-game shows like ESPN’s “College GameDay” and Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff.” But Hurlbert said the university ran a report on the equivalent ad value of the earned media coverage since the season started and estimated it at $90.55 million.
He also said CU Boulder issued a record 848 media credentials for the Nebraska game, which Hurlbert said is likely to be surpassed for the USC game on Sept. 30.
The game against CSU had 9.3 million viewers, making it ESPN’s fifth most-watched college football game on record and the most-watched late window game ever. The Nebraska game was the most-watched Pac-12 regular season game in Fox history and the 10th most-watched regular season college football game ever broadcast on Fox.
“CU Boulder has been the epicenter of the national sports world, which has provided unprecedented exposure for our university across the country,” Chancellor Phil DiStefano said in a statement. “I am impressed by the excitement that has permeated campus, which is less quantifiable but certainly as important as record-setting merchandise and ticket sales.”
This September has been the biggest month ever for the CU Buffs online team store. December of 2022, when Coach Prime was hired, was the second highest grossing month. All of the top 10 all-time highest sales days in the history of the online team store have occurred since Coach Prime was hired.
Sales in the online team store increased by 505% in December after Coach Prime was hired. Year to date, the team store revenue is pacing 892% ahead of 2022 and 153% ahead of 2021. September to date, sales are up 2,544% to last year at this time.
In addition to record merchandise sales, CU Boulder sold a record amount of tickets. The university sold 22,457 season tickets, which does not including the 11,600 student sports passes. Season tickets sold out in April, which is the first time in 27 years CU Boulder sold out of season tickets and just the ninth time in school history, Hurlbert said.
CU Boulder has now also sold out every home game this season for the first time in school history.
Donations within athletics and outside of athletics are also up. Last fiscal year, the Buff Club set a record with more than $28 million in athletic department donations.
Overall donations to the university have been also increased in terms of money raised. In fiscal year 2022, donors contributed a total of $50,846,783, and in fiscal year 2023, donors contributed $52,785,243.
Total royalty revenue, or money that CU Boulder receives from merchandise partners who use the CU logo on various items, totaled more than $1.9 million for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
Social media also took off. On the day Coach Prime was hired, Hurlbert said, CU Boulder had a total of 268,000 followers on the five CU football social media platforms. Now, there are almost 2 million.
Economic impacts to restaurants, hotels, retail businesses and more in Boulder and surrounding areas are also in the millions of dollars. Hurlbert said the economic impact of the Nebraska game is estimated to be up 70% compared to the 2022 CU Buffs game during the same weekend last year.
“The Visit Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau projects that the 2023 CU vs. Nebraska football game brought in an estimated total of $17 million in combined direct and indirect economic impact to the area,” Hurlbert said in a statement. “This is the economic impact of the event for the whole region, not specifically to Boulder, as visitors stayed in surrounding towns, including Denver, for the game.”
All this revenue generated by the football team will stay within the CU Boulder Athletics Department.
The CU Boulder Athletics Department has an auxiliary budget, meaning it’s separate from the university’s general fund. Revenue generated by athletics, including merchandise, ticket sales and donations, stays in the department to help fund other sports and student-athlete resources including the WHOLE Student Athlete Program and Psychological Health and Performance.
“I’m so happy for our students, alumni and fans who have all been savoring this incredible experience,” DiStefano said in a statement. “Most of all, I’m immensely proud of our coaches and student-athletes, who have demonstrated incredible poise amidst all of this attention and whose hard work is the reason we’re enjoying such a successful start to the season.”