Ohio State and Alabama spend more than $31 million a year to operate their football programs or about $21 million more than BYU and the University of Utah.
In fact, Utah ranks only 11th among Pac 12 schools in football expenditures, according to data published by Department of Education. The federal government has required universities to submit the amount they spend on sports since 2000 as part of the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act. Based on information from the 2009-10 school year, Utah spent $9.9 million on its football program.
That's less than half of the $21.37 million spent by traditional Pac-12 power Southern Cal and portends the challenges the Utes face in becoming competitive in that BCS conference as they transition from the Mountain West.
The only league member that spent less than Utah was Washington State ($9.18 million).
Of note, the Utes will have to roughly double their spending to rank among the upper tier of Pac-12 members.
The Pac-12 average for football expenditures was $15.35 million, which put the league fourth in the country among conferences, behind the Southeast, Big-10 and Big-12. Of the 117 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the country, the Utes ranked 68th in football spending, just behind BYU.
The Cougars spent $10.31 million on football, putting them 66th among FBS schools.
Relative to the amount spent, Utah and BYU fared well this season. Both were among the 70 schools that qualified for bowl games.
Further, both BYU and Utah turned healthy profits on their football programs: $5.5 million for BYU, $4.8 million for Utah. By contrast, Utah State was about $700,000 in the red.
Budgets nationally for the 70 schools that played in bowl games this season range from the $31 million spent by Ohio State and Alabama to the just over $5 million spent by Troy, which went to the New Orleans Bowl.
The Cougars are moving from the Mountain West to independent status. Notre Dame, the nation's premier independent, spent $29.49 million on its football program.
Meanwhile, Utah State spent $5.31 million on football, slightly below the Western Athletic Conference average of $5.56 million.
Most schools' figures were for the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to The Associated Press.
Broken down on a per-student basis, Notre Dame spends the most, the database says.
Their trip to the Sun Bowl is coming at a price of $3,531 for each of Notre Dame's 8,351 undergraduates.
Boise State is one of college football's biggest bargains. The Broncos were ranked in the top 10 throughout the season and beat Utah in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on a budget of $6.85 million, or $564 per student.
BYU spends $367 on football for each of its 28,048 undergraduates.
Utah, with an enrollment of 14,953, spends $662 per student.
While football can add millions to a school's bank account, the spending gives plenty of ammunition to critics of big-time college sports.
"It's a sad commentary given the general conditions out there: 10 percent unemployment, economic stagnation," said Tom Palaima, the University of Texas' representative on the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, which believes spending has gotten out of hand.
"You look at $1,500 per capita [at Auburn], that's a large outlay. I just don't see how it can be justified given that most of the revenues will still end up on the sports side of the ledger."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
By the numbers
How conferences rank in average per-school football spending, according to the Department of Education:
1. SEC $19.51 million
2. Big-10 $17.88M
3. Big-12 $15.89M
4. Pac-12 $15.35M
5. Atlanta Coast $15.07M
6. Big East $14.61M
7. Conference USA $8.69M
8. Mountain West $8.60M
9. Mid-American $6.03M
10. Western Athletic $5.56M
11. Sun Belt $4.80M
Spending on football by schools in next year's Pac-12:
1. USC $21.37M
2. Washington $19.2M
3. California $18.51M
4. UCLA $18.39M
5. Oregon $18.07M
6. Arizona State $17.97M
7. Arizona $13.68M
8. Stanford $13.51M
9. Colorado $12.55M
10. Oregon State $11.98M
11. Utah $9.9M
12. Washington St. $9.18M
Football spending by Utah schools
Expenses Revenue Pro./loss
BYU 10.3M 15.8M +5.5M
Utah 9.9M 14.7M +4.8M
USU 5.3M 4.6M -700K
WSU 2.3M 2.4M +100K
SUU 1.9M 1.7M -200K