Photo: stnorbert / Flickr
Photo: stnorbert / Flickr

College sports are a lucrative business.

Even if you don’t watch the March Madness, it’s hard to ignore the hype. With the advertising, promotion, and sponsorship encompassing Division 1 football and basketball in particular, it’s clear that there is a lot of money to be earned.

Today, collegiate athletics are an $8 billion industry. On first thought, it seems intuitive that the big bucks are made by televised events and large tournaments. But reality is not so simple.

In an analytical short video called “The Big Game,” production company Brave New Films examines how college athletics affect the academic lives of the regular students. Their conclusion: collegiate sports are increasing student debt.

A 2013 study conducted by US News showed that, on average, universities spent almost 7 times as much per athlete than on educating a non-athlete; that is, over $91,000 spent per athlete in comparison to about $13,600 per student.

Worse, students are forced to fund these programs.

It’s common for athletic department’s budget to come directly from student tuition. At Kent State in 2010, 54% of school’s $19 million athletic budget came from student fees, singlehandedly surpassing donations, schools funds, licensing, and ticket sales combined.

The percentage was even higher at three other MAC conference universities.

Despite the burden placed on students to fund college athletic departments, programs often lose money at the end of the season. In studies from 2013 and 2014 on the relation between universities and their football programs, researchers found that 82% of college football programs lose, on average, $11 million per year.

Utah State University, for example, spent $25 million on their athletic program in a given year and earned only $11 million. The remaining $14 million came from taxpayer money and student tuitions, a burden that manifests itself as student debt due to the constantly increasing cost of university attendance.

So who benefits from college sports?

Despite these losses, universities continue to invest in athletic programs. From this, it may appear that student-athletes reap the benefits while regular students inherently lose out.

But the athletes themselves are seldom the benefactors

Despite the full scholarships student-athletes may receive, 85% of on-campus athletes and 86% of off-campus athletes at Division 1 universities with football programs live below the poverty line. The average out-of-pocket expense per full-scholarship athlete is $3222.

So who profits?

Coaches. Football and basketball coaches at big athletic schools make upwards of $1 million a year. The University of Kentucky basketball coach makes $4 million annually; the University of Missouri football coach makes $3.4 million annually.

To be fair, there are benefits for colleges as a whole. Universities that make and/or perform well at NCAA tournaments see a significant rise in applications the following year. A college in the NCAA championship basketball game will see a 7-8% rise in number of students applying.

However, college athletics at most schools do not benefit students or student-athletes on a monetary level. Sports are a business; unfortunately, they are a business that carries with them the intrinsic repercussions of student debt.

Athletics, it seems, is overpowering academics, but they need not be mutually exclusive. Students should not have their right to learn inhibited, nor should student-athletes be used by a business that doesn’t have the best interests of students and athletes at heart.