How Much Money Do College Sports Generate?

Football is king when it comes to collegiate sports revenues.

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College sports programs reached a historic high-water mark during the 2016-2017 academic year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) reported revenue of more than $1 billion in its audited financial report for the September 2016 through August 2017 sports season. Included in the total revenue were ticket sales, marketing rights, sports tournaments and championship games.


College sports bring in well over $1 billion per year. However, the vast majority of this revenue is generated by college football teams.

Researching the NCAA

Based in Indianapolis, the NCAA is a member-led sports organization composed of 1,117 colleges and universities, 100 athletic conferences and 40 affiliated sports organizations. Members pay dues, but the overwhelming amount of the NCAA's revenue comes from two primary sources: the Division I men's basketball tournament marketing and television rights ($821.4 million) and championship ticket sales ($129.4 million).

The NCAA distributes money among its member institutions in numerous ways, such as providing scholarships, funding team travel and lodging expenses for championship games and assisting with academic programs for student athletes.

Individual College Sports Programs

NCAA budget numbers offer a collective snapshot for college sports revenue, but individual college programs break it down even more. Each college or university makes money from various sources, including ticket sales, television and radio contracts, endorsements, licensing and donors.

In 2016, 27 schools received at least $100 million in revenue from their sports programs. This represents a substantial increase in revenue over a two-year period, with only 13 schools' sports programs reaching $100 million in revenue in 2014.

Football Is Still King

Men's basketball is the largest source of the NCAA's total revenue because the NCAA tournament brings in lots of money. But even before teams reach the tournament level, they generate revenue for their schools with individual basketball games. And at these school levels, basketball takes second chair to football for total revenue generated.

In fact, football garners more revenue than the next 35 other sports combined at Division I schools. On average, football brings in $31.9 million in revenue, while men's basketball (the second-highest grossing sport) comes in a distant second at $8.1 million. For reference, women's basketball brings in $1.8 million, while rowing brings in just $932,646.

Schools With the Highest Sports Revenues

Of course, some schools generate more sports-related revenue than others. In 2016, topping the chart as the highest college sports revenue producer was the University of Texas, with a whopping $182.1 million.

For reference, No. 10 on the list was the University of Florida with $134 million and No. 20 was the University of Louisville with $112.1 million. Stanford University had the highest revenue from women's basketball; with a three-year average of $18.6 million, the program generated almost triple the revenue of its men's basketball program, which had a three-year average of $6.8 million.