College Footballs Biggest Donors

college_footballs_biggest_donorsCollege football is a phenomenon and one of the most popular sports in the US. In recent years it has turned into a business that resembles the NFL in ways like venue and ticket revenue, as well as the sheer overwhelming amount of merchandising. These days’ colleges even get T.V. deals with providers who broadcast their games. So it should come with little shock that certain ambitious and influential people want a piece of the college football pie.

Perks from Donating to a College Football Program

Being a mega donor to a college football program has a whole lot of perks. For instance: the ability to hire and fire coaches, athletic directors, and sometimes Presidents. For others a reach beyond the footballs stadium is the goal. Some donors angle for positions of authority within Universities, such as spots on the Board of Trustees. Since money usually talks louder than reason there are many “generous” donors who beef up the income of certain athletic programs. The pressure to keep programs successful coupled with the pressure of losing big, essentially free money for the University saddles many big time donors with much coveted power.

Since the ethical implications of such activities are dubious to say the least the information about such donors is strictly unofficial. Many sources compile such lists, however to offer a glimpse into this particular corner of the world of college athletics. So who are these mysterious donors?

School Donated (that can be tracked)



Estimated wealth

Amount Donated

University of Texas Joe Jamail Jr. $1.4 billion $30 million
University of Alabama Paul W. Bryant Jr NA $10 million
University of Oklahoma and Colorado College Christy Gaylord Everest NA $80 million
UVA Paul Tudor Jones II $2 billion More than $50 million
University of Oregon Phil Knight : $6.9 billion $60 million to $70 million
University of Missouri Bill Laurie $2.2 billion More than $30 million
University of Georgia Don Leebern Jr NA $500,000
Auburn University Bobby Lowder NA More than $20 million
Oklahoma State T. Boone Pickens $1.5 billion More than $290 million
University of Tennessee John “Thunder” Thornton NA $1 million

This list is relatively old, as stated the only real look into these Donor University relationships are unofficial, but it helps to illustrate a point. This is a glimpse of the sheer amount of money and influence being thrown at college football. While the donations are likely more than helpful to the universities they are given to, what is given in return for “donations” seems a bit much. Many of the people on this list serve on the board of the schools which they donate to and have obvious pull and say so within the community of their chosen university or college.

Is it fair to allow privileged individuals to command an entire athletic department and hold their money as hostage to ensure that they get their way? Understandably this topic is a double edged sword. On the one hand they help the school, and on the other hand it is not a real donation since they are being given something in return. However the topic is considered it is a topic certainly worth consideration.


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