Jayhawk fans: How much is a Kansas University football victory worth to you?
Seriously, how much would you pay for each one? $50? $1,000?
How about $8 million?
That's about how much Kansas Athletics has spent on the football program for each victory during the past three seasons, according to an analysis by Forbes magazine.
That's far above the going rate, even in the big-money world of major-conference college football. In fact, in Forbes' feature on money in college football, released last week, it earned KU the title of "worst team for the money" in the sport. By a wide margin.
Making matters worse for KU fans, perhaps, is which school Forbes named the "most cost-efficient" team in the country, among major conferences: Kansas State University. Forbes listed K-State's cost per win at about $1.45 million.
At least it's not Missouri, right?
To come up with its figures, Forbes reviewed federal Department of Education data on college athletic spending to determine how much athletic departments spent on football during the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years. It then divided that total by how many victories the team tallied during the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons. (The idea, Forbes says, is that spending on the football program one year contributes to the team's success the next year.)
The math for KU came to just about $8 million per win. That was more than $2 million more than the next least efficient program, Indiana.
Why the sky-high cost? Well, it's no secret the last three seasons have been lean ones for KU football: The team's overall record has been 6-30.
And that has come around the same time that Kansas Athletics paid some hefty sums to coaches on their way out.
After Mark Mangino's resignation in 2009, he settled with the university for $3 million. And after Turner Gill was fired in 2011, he received a lump-sum payment of the $6 million he was to earn over the three years remaining on his contract. That year, according to the federal figures Forbes used, KU's football spending jumped by about $7 million.
All in all, according to Forbes' totals, KU spent about $48 million on football during the 2009-2011 period.
This year, new head coach Charlie Weis coached his first season after signing a five-year, $12.5 million contract — which doesn't count in Forbes' calculus.
It's important to remember, KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger said Wednesday, that investments in the football program are designed to pay off for years down the line.
"At first glance, you could look at a statistic like this and be taken aback, but the truth of the matter is Kansas football was in a great position in 2008 and can be in just as good a position again if addressed in the right manner," said Zenger, who was hired in January 2011. "In the world of BCS college athletics today, we all know that KU has one of the elite basketball programs in the nation and is on the road back to prominence in many other sports. But we have a tall task ahead of us in turning the football program back around, and that's why we've made the investment in a head coach and a coaching staff who can get the job done."
Things certainly were better in 2008. In fact, during the three-year period before the one Forbes examined — the 2007 to 2009 football seasons — KU spent less for each victory than K-State did, according to Journal-World calculations using the Department of Education data.
That was the case for the 2004 to 2006 seasons, as well. During that period, KU spent about half as much on football as it did during the most recent three-year period, according to the federal data.
But investment in football has become all the more important in recent years amid the shifting landscape of major college sports, Zenger said.
"Through the lens of conference realignment, we are all being judged by our commitment to football," Zenger said. "And Jayhawk Nation saw in the last few years just how important that commitment is and why we have made it a priority."
Fellow Big 12 programs Oklahoma and Baylor also ranked among the top 10 most cost-efficient teams, according to Forbes. No other Big 12 teams were alongside KU at the bottom of the list, though former conference-mate Colorado came in with the third-highest cost per win at $4.7 million.
But KU is pushing to turn things around, Zenger said.
"Now is not the time to fall asleep at the wheel and draw back," he said. "Now is the time to push forward."