NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Athletic Departments See Surge Financially in Down Economy

June 24, 2011

More than $470 million in new money poured into major college athletics programs last year, boosting spending on sports even as many of the parent universities struggled with funding reductions during tough economic times, a USA Today analysis has found.

Much of the rise in athletics revenue came from an escalation in money generated through multimedia rights deals, donations and ticket receipts, but schools also continued increasing their subsidies from student fees and institutional funds.

  • Altogether in 2010, about $2 billion in subsidies went to athletics programs at the 218 public schools that have been in the NCAA's top-level Division I over the past five years.
  • Those subsidies grew by an inflation-adjusted 3 percent in 2010.
  • They have grown by 28 percent since 2006 and account for $1 of every $3 spent on athletics.

Even with 2010's more modest growth rate, these increases run counter to the national trend of declining state support for public colleges, many of which have imposed layoffs, salary freezes, cuts in course offerings and substantial tuition and fee hikes.  While about a third of the 218 Division I schools trimmed athletics budgets last year, about a third either increased their spending faster than money came in, or spending cuts didn't keep up with losses.

  • All told, nearly $6.2 billion was spent last year on athletics at the 218 schools.
  • That means athletics spending grew by 3 percent in 2010.
  • Total revenue grew by 5.5 percent in 2010.
  • Revenue grew faster than expenses at 22 schools in 2010, up from 14 in 2009.

Source: Steve Berkowitz and Jodi Upton, "Athletic Departments See Surge Financially in Down Economy," USA Today, June 16, 2011.

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