LAST SEASON Louisville won its first title since 1986 by beating Michigan, but ever since Rick Pitino's Cardinals moved into their publicly funded $238 million KFC Yum Center three years ago -- a state-of-the-art arena resplendent with executive seating, parking and alcohol-laden concessions -- they have delighted their accountants just as much as their rabid fans.
The Cardinals, unquestionably the nation's wealthiest men's basketball program, raked in profits of about $27 million in the 2011-12 season. Last year's title-winning campaign? Just a ho-hum $35 million. How much is that exactly? More than any other team is even capable of generating in total revenue -- period. With the nation's third-highest average attendance, 71 luxury suites bringing in $14.6 million in revenue alone, and a fan base that gifted an eye-watering $20 million in donations, Louisville has the financial clout to make even some NBA executives envious.
The Cardinals' move to the ACC in 2014 will only add to that: Their $3 million in Big East TV money will be dwarfed by the deal the ACC signed with ESPN, at $17 million per school. Throw in the national title and aspirations of another and we'll likely see the Cardinals soar on and off the court for years to come.