The Economics of Intercollegiate Athletics

Here is more evidence that the role of athletics in higher education should be reconsidered. Another useful discussion occurs in the book by Christensen and Eyring. An earlier entry on this blog is also relevant.

(p. 230) The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics offers “College Sports 101: A Primer on Money, Athletics, and Higher Education in the 21st Century.” “In fact, the vast majority of athletics programs reap far less money from external sources than they need to function. Virtually all universities subsidize athletics departments through general fund allocations, student fees, and state appropriations, and the NCAA estimates in a given year that only 20 to 30 athletics programs actually generate enough external revenue to cover operating expenses. Institutional subsidies to athletics can exceed $11 million, according to data provided by the NCAA. With costs in athletics rising faster than in other areas of university operations, it is not clear how many institutions can continue to underwrite athletics at their current level . . . Rigorous studies of the subject, however, suggest that there is no significant institutional benefit to athletic success. . . . Indeed, donations to athletics departments may cannibalize contributions to academic programs. . . . There are two other myths to be dispelled. First, there is no correlation between spending more on athletics and winning more . . . Second, increased spending on coaches’ salaries has no significant relationship to success or increased revenue . . . October 2009, at 〈〉.

Taylor, Timothy. “Recommendations for Further Reading.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 24, no. 2 (Spring 2010): 227-34.
(Note: ellipses in original.)

The Knight Commission report can be downloaded at:
Weiner, Jay. “College Sports 101: A Primer on Money, Athletics, and Higher Education in the 21st Century.” Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, 2009.

The Christensen and Eyring book is:
Christensen, Clayton M., and Henry J. Eyring. The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011.

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