How Much Money Do College Sports Generate?

by Scott Morgan

    It's no surprise that college sports are big business for schools with elite Division I teams. Between TV contracts, merchandising and investments in athletic programs, colleges in the United states generate hundreds of millions of dollars every year. How much money specific sports, schools or programs generate varies wildly according to the popularity of the sport and how successful a team is.

    The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the largest collegiate sports organization in the United States, oversees much of the business of American college sports. For 2011-12, the NCAA reported $871.6 million in revenue-- 81 percent of which came from a broadcast rights agreement with Turner/CBS Sports. Another 11 percent came from sponsoring championships, such as the annual "March Madness" basketball tournament. The NCAA distributes roughly 60 percent of its revenues among Division I schools to help fund athletic departments and scholarships.

    No college sport generates more money every year than football. In 2012, Business Insider reported that the University of Texas' football program generated more than $95 million the previous season, the most of any college in the United States. These revenues come largely from broadcast rights, ticket sales and merchandising. In 2010, the collective revenue of the 15 highest-grossing football programs in the United States was more than $1 billion. In many schools, the revenues generated by successful football and basketball programs fund the entire athletic department.

    Basketball -- predominantly men's -- typically is the only college sport besides football that generates significant income for schools, but even popular basketball programs barely generate half the money football generates. Nationally in 2010-11, the top 15 college basketball programs generated roughly $293 million, less than a third of what the top 15 football programs generated. Still, Division I teams that advance through the NCAA Championships tend to make big profits for schools.

    While professional baseball is a major revenue generator in the United States, collegiate baseball programs make very little money compared to football and basketball. Still, a college baseball team that makes it through the NCAA playoffs and into the College World Series can generate significantly more money than teams that do not make the playoffs. In 2011, the University of Arizona's baseball team generated about $69,000 in ticket sales. A year later, having made the College World Series, the program generated $350,000.

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    About the Author

    Scott Morgan is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered central New Jersey since 2001. He has worked with the Princeton Packet Newsgroup, US 1 Publishing, "Unique Homes Magazine" and Community News Service. Morgan also serves as a professional speaker and teacher. He holds a bachelor's degree in humanities from Thomas Edison State College.

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