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December 11, 2014

Makeover Monday (on Thursday): How one of the richest teams in college football makes & spends its money

In late November, Cork Gaines of Business Insider wrote about how the University of Alabama football team makes and spends its money. The two articles were accompanied by these two pie charts:

There are many issues with these charts:
  1. They are pie charts, which makes comparing the slices difficult.
  2. The slices are not labeled with the amount, so I have to make some guesses as to their contribution to the whole and then multiply that by the total shown in the titles. That's way too much work.
  3. There are categories missing from the source data.
  4. Why are these in two separate articles since they are a related story? Why aren't they combined in a single story?
  5. There's no mention of the profit the football team turns.
I could go on, but I'll stop there. One of the great things Cork does in his articles is link to the source data. This allowed me to download the data from this website and build my own visualization.

NOTE: This is an update of the original chart based on feedback from Nelson Davis. Nelson suggested making the bar sizes relative across the charts, which my first version failed to do.

First, I need to give a special thanks to Emily Kund for reviewing this viz and providing some great feedback. For example, it was her idea to use the Alabama official colors in the viz.  Thanks Em!

In my version of the viz I wanted to:
  1. Bring the revenue and expense data into the same view
  2. Provide a high-level overview, including profit
  3. Rank the categories in descending order, except for "Other", which I prefer to place last in the sort
  4. Include the actual amounts by labeling the bars
Thoughts? Which do you prefer? Why? You can build your own by downloading the Tableau workbook used to create this viz here or view it on Tableau Public here.


  1. Hey Andy -

    Your updated version with the bar charts makes it much easier to compare the different expenses and revenues among themselves. However one thing both the original and your updated bar chart version could be improved with is scaling to allow easier comparisons between revenue and expenses. If you updated the bar charts to use the same scale, it would make it easier to see the discrepancy between the overall revenues and expenses, as well as comparing a specific expense category to a specific revenue source. It's wouldn't be as aesthetically pleasing because it would add quite a bit of white space to the right of the revenues chart, but it would make the consumption of the information easier.

    I really enjoy following the blog, especially the sports focused posts. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Great feedback Barrett...thanks! I didn't like the extra white space scaling the axes created, much like you suspected. Also, as far as comparing categories across the viz, that wouldn't make sense here since there aren't any categories in common other than Other.

  2. Andy -
    I love the subject and love hearing you worked with Emily (she's great). I had a similar thought to Barrett it still feels like apples and oranges, but appreciate your point of no common categories. Instead, might I suggest a common fixed sized X-Axis? That way the gray bars should cover roughly twice the area of the red bars, and convey the sense that revenue is much greater than cost. Maybe it works or maybe not, but it would feel closer to apples to apples for me.

    Great work as always and thanks for sharing with the community.

    1. Nelson, that's precisely what Barrett was suggesting too. I didn't care for the look of it, so had to make the trade off. I thought of trying some other things, but I time box myself on these makeovers and ran out of time to iterate more.

  3. Great Viz! Like the improvements with the bold numbers across the top. Two Things:
    1) Alabama could let fans attend the games for free and still turn a significant profit
    2) I would display the values on the bars in the same format as the numbers across the top (i.e. $36.2M instead of $36,199,233 for ticket sales)

    1. I had the numbers in the chart with the same precision, but too many of them got rounded to zero.