Introducing The Cap Dollars By College Page

Today is the first Saturday of the 2017 college football season, and as a honor to this, I decided to put together a fairly simple page that breaks down cap spending by college. For those of you that have a rooting interest in a college team, you may find it interesting to see how well your school’s best football alumni are doing on NFL financial grounds.

The Cap Dollars By College page contains four views: by all colleges overall, breakdowns by team, and breakdowns by conference. Although there may be some further changes as final 53-player rosters are cut down today, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the current standings as the 2017 NFL regular season approaches.  If there are significant changes, I’ll update these results accordingly.

Top 25 Overall Colleges By Cap Dollars

Rk.College#Cap Dollars
7Ohio State48$112,657,212
10Texas A&M37$98,918,954
13Florida State48$91,835,919
14Michigan State31$85,196,782
16South Carolina28$80,934,113
22Penn State33$66,354,760
25Notre Dame35$63,965,369

You might think that Matt Stafford’s recent extension pushed Georgia to the top, but remember that his 2017 cap number was unchanged, still at $16.5 million. Stafford, in fact, doesn’t have the highest cap number among Bulldogs–that goes to Justin Houston at $22.1 million. Cordy Glenn, AJ Green, Geno Atkins, and Thomas Davis are the other Bulldogs with eight figure cap numbers.

Miami is a bit of a surprise to see at #6, as all of the players from the glory days around the turn of the millennium are now out of the league with Vince Wilfork’s recent retirement. But Brandon Linder’s recent extension gives the Hurricanes five alumni with eight figure cap numbers. The other four are a pair of defensive linemen in Olivier Vernon and Calais Campbell, and a pair of tight ends in Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham.

Some schools, like Ohio State and Florida State, have relatively even distribution among their highly-paid alumni. Other schools are top heavy with one or two alumni boosting them to the Top 25. Nebraska and Ole Miss are two excellent examples barely making the Top 25 due to the massive cap hits from Ndamukong Suh ($19.1 million) and Eli Manning ($19.7 million). Some of these schools may be on the verge of falling down the list quickly in the future. For example, Utah’s top two alumni are Alex Smith ($16.9 million) and Sean Smith ($9.5 million), but many feel that 2017 may be the last year both of them can get paid at that level. Losing $26.4 million in cap dollars would send the Utes tumbling down the charts if that does happen.

Each NFL Team’s College With The Highest Cap Spending

TeamCollegeCap Dollars
RedskinsMichigan State$24,563,323
FalconsBoston College$24,365,000
CowboysOklahoma State$21,465,000
DolphinsTexas A&M$20,300,000
ChargersNorth Carolina State$20,000,000
BearsNorth Carolina State$18,100,000
RaidersFresno State$15,731,691
49ersPenn State$13,504,000

This list contains more variety than the Top 25 overall list does, and most of the variety comes from veteran quarterbacks dominating their team’s cap.  Teams where this sticks out like a sore thumb are the Ravens (Joe Flacco of Delaware), Redskins (Kirk Cousins of Michigan State on his second franchise tag), and Saints (Drew Brees of Purdue).

On the other end, a few teams without a highly paid quarterback also show some oddities. Kansas, a team that’s regularly a bottom feeder in the Big 12, gets the top billing for the Broncos due to the presence of Pro Bowl cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Jr. Temple also shows up for the Jets thanks to Muhammad Wilkerson’s recent extension.

As for the overall top ranked Georgia, they make the list several times both with a high paid quarrterback (Stafford on the Lions), and multiple non-quarterbacks (Green and Atkins on the Bengals).

Division I-A Conference Rankings

ConferenceCap DollarsTop CollegeBottom College
Big Ten$776,730,639Ohio StateIndiana
Pac-12$763,388,132USCWashington State
ACC$726,476,315MiamiWake Forest
Big 12$447,768,836OklahomaBaylor
The American$287,818,399Central FloridaNavy
Mountain West$185,957,269Boise StateAir Force
Mid-American$170,925,631Central MichiganBowling Green
Conference USA$139,219,431Southern MissCharlotte
Sun Belt$95,036,626Coastal CarolinaLouisiana-Monroe
Independent$92,642,834Notre DameArmy

The SEC has long bragged about being the best conference in college football, and when it comes to cap spending on its alumni in the NFL, their bragging is justified. The SEC is the only conference in the NFL that breaks the $1 billion mark in cap spending.

The split between the Power 5 and Group of 5/independent schools also shows up. Boise State is the highest ranked Group of 5 school, but overall they only come in at #37. Within conferences, you can also see how blue bloods are regularly the top team in the conference, while service academies and regular bottom feeders show up on the bottom.

Finally, as of today every Division I-A school has at least one player on an NFL roster. We’ll have to see if that holds up by 4 PM Eastern time today.

  • Ken Stauder

    Wow that was a lot of work, but well worth it.
    If you have been doing this in the past years I would love to see the comparison.

    • Nick

      Thank you! It should be easy enough to go back to at least 2013, in a future edition of this page I can add yearly tabs.

  • a57se

    How the heck is Cal number 5?

    • Ghoston


      then alex mack desean jackson, keenan allen marshawn,, goff, marvin jones, cameron jordan and mitchell swartz

      • a57se

        All those guys went to Cal…OK, then.

  • Werner

    Now we just need a smart Dean’s Office to come around and advertise their College as the one with the highest earning QB-Degree for those Kids where the MsC or MBA doesn’t cut it anymore.
    @Jason, if you could add (as you certainly have the data) the average and the median salary per College/Player, this would highlight even more the uneven distribution. I think Miami was even higher when the Colts assembled kind of a Reunion Team two years ago, from which only Gore i think is still on the Team, but not for long anymore.