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September 18, 2013 12:34 PM The Profit in College Sports

By Daniel Luzer

A piece in the latest issue of the magazine looks at the possibility of paying students for participating in college sports.

Al Jazeera also addresses this in an interesting piece about college football “by the numbers.” An average school in the Football Bowl Subdivision, for instance, pays $91,936 on a single student-athlete, but only $13,628 on the average student.

One number is missing from this, however: profit. While a 2010 analysis by CNN Money indicated that “profit for the 68 teams that play in the six major conferences was up 11 percent from the prior school year,” football profit is not exactly common.

According to a a 2011 analysis of the 117 Division I schools from 2003-2009, “40 teams averaged a loss in money through football over the 7 year period.”

But that’s still better than the average for most college sports.

While there’s a lot of talk about the vast revenue generated in certain famous programs, almost every college sports program, other than football and men’s basketball, operates at a loss.

Only 12 percent of college athletic programs in America generate any profit.

Even in football and men’s basketball, the numbers aren’t exactly stunning. According to 2010 research by University of Oregon PhD student Christopher Lee, only 57 percent of college football programs are profitable. And the numbers are the same for collegiate basketball: only 57 percent of them make money.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

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