The Louisville Cardinals have made two consecutive Final Fours, and a No. 4 seed this year means a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament's semi-final round may be in the cards. It would be a fitting outcome because this year also marks the third straight year that Louisville reigns supreme off the court: Now worth $39.5 million, the Cardinals are once again college basketball's most valuable team.
Louisville has been among college basketball's three most valuable teams ever since we started ranking the teams in 2008, but that financial success turned to dominance when Louisville began playing home games in the KFC Yum! Center. The new waterfront arena, which opened in 2010, has the third-highest capacity among college basketball arenas. We didn't rank the most valuable college teams in 2011, the first year that the KFC Yum! Center's impact would have been recorded, but by 2012 the Cardinals were worth $36.1 million, up nearly 40% from two years earlier.
The new home court allows Louisville to host huge gameday crowds, and the team has ranked third in average home game attendance in every season since its opening (Kentucky and Syracuse have ranked first and second, respectively). Last year the Cardinals collected $12 million from ticket sales alone - Xavier, at No. 17 on our list, makes that much in total annual revenue. Alumni have also been pleased, as the school counts a massive $29 million in contributions, nearly 75% of which it attributes to the basketball team. Add on some $6 million in NCAA and conference distributions and another million in parking and concession sales, and you've got the sport's best recipe for success.
In second place for the second straight year is Kansas. The Jayhawks, unlike Louisville, have not always been a top financial power. In fact, in 2008 Kansas ranked eighth with a value of $16 million, which was below that year's average value for a top-20 team. But Kansas is now worth $33 million, thanks largely to $13 million in ticket sales and, like Louisville, massive contribution revenue: The Kansas athletic department collected $33 million in such donations. And Bill Self's Jayhawks have been stellar on the court, too, generating more money for their conference from NCAA Tournament play than any other team in the nation.