Athletics & Cash

J forwarded me a link to an OpinionJournal piece about college athletics. The overall tone of the piece seems to be questioning whether college sports makes or loses money for institutions. I found the piece pretty interesting, as well as the underlying report.

As some of you know, I graduated from one of the big football schools. Football was king for the simple reason that football revenues funded the entire athletic department. Looking at the NCAA’s numbers, I see that 68% of I-A schools make money from football, with an average profit of $9.2 million. The top football schools make between 25 and 38 million in profit off football alone. That’s a whole bunch o’ money. If I assume that the school with the largest reported revenues is also the school with the largest reported expenses, some institution made over 20 million off athletics. Other things that come out include the unsurprising fact that football and men’s basketball make all of the money, while women’s sports and everything else lose money.

Overall, the numbers are a bit bleak. Only 40% of I-A schools turn a profit with the athletic department. The other schools are losing an average of 4.4 million a year. OpinionJournal claims that with capital spending involved, only 12 schools are making money. I would think at some point, you have to look at the loss and wonder whether it’s worth continuing. I know that Rice is having a discussion about whether or not to keep the football team. Sports are nice, but the institution exists to educate people. If sports are taking resources from the primary mission, maybe it’s time to let it go or at least scale it back considerably.

Of course, I can say things like this. I’m guessing that my college is making a profit, so I’m in no danger of losing my football team. I might feel a little differently were the situation otherwise.


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