Money Making vs. Money Draining: College Sports

Posted: October 7, 2010 in News, Sports
Tags: , , , , ,

money making sportsLast month, the University of California announced that it will drop five varsity sports, including baseball and a championship rugby team, at the close of this school year. This decision constitutes one of the most dramatic cuts in a school with an elite athletic program. Berkeley will be making drastic reductions despite a steady rise in funding. Their 29-team athletic program funding went from $7.4 million in the 2007-2008 school year to $12.1 million in 2008-2009 according to an article in the USA Today. While Cal Berkeley sites these decisions as painful, they will be reducing the financial support to its athletic department by approximately $5 million a year by the 2013-2014 school year.

So why do we prioritize sports such as football and basketball, even though a school may have a championship team in another less popular sport? It may be all in the money.

In an article in the East Bay Express this past spring, Cal Berkeley made it known that they want to reduce funding to their money losing programs and put it toward academics. So what are these money losing sports? According to UC Berkeley, 27 of their 29 programs lose the school money each year. The only money making programs are football and men’s basketball.

These sports make a lot of money because they sell a lot of tickets and enjoy lucrative television contracts as well as large donations from alumni. Other sports cannot seem to generate the spectators and ticket sales like men’s basketball and football. Take Berkeley’s women’s basketball team for example, they lose the school an average of $1.6 million each year. Overall, every women’s program loses money for universities around the country.

Sports such as tennis, gymnastics, and soccer (for both men and women) cannot seem to generate enough interest to cover the expenses. The equipment, travel time, coaches, medical coverage, and more all cost the university an excess of a couple million dollars. As these sports continue to lose colleges money, football and men’s basketball generally report a surplus in their budgets.

You’ve heard it before and you will probably hear it again and again, college football and men’s basketball are the moneymakers. The Bowl Games and March Madness are evidence of the success of these two programs. When is the last time you have entered a tennis, rugby, or gymnastics pool or bracket? Probably never. Each year millions of individuals fill in basketball brackets and anxiously await the end of quarter of a Bowl game to see if their numbers hit in the pool.

While it is unfortunate that a championship rugby or soccer team does not get the recognition or financial backing they deserve, it is a fact that the money makers will always outrank the money drainers.

Personally, I have 3 lacrosse players that will have to transfer schools if they want to pursue their dreams. These girls have dreamed of playing at a college level and when it comes to dreams they are no different than a guy dreaming of playing college basketball or football. They have trained their entire lives for these college moments.

While the facts remain, girl’s lacrosse will never make the revenue that men’s basketball or football does. Is there a solution to this? Fund-raising? Playing only reasonably located teams? Volunteer coaches?

I’m opened to input! What do you guys think? Can these less popular programs be saved (or eventually revived) or these girls just tough out of luck so to speak? Let me hear it!

  1. kurt schwartz says:

    Sad but true. It is all about the money! Like you stated, ticket sales, TV revenue and RICH Alumni dictate what sport programs will survive in College sports today. It seems like it is more of a Division 1 problem than a 2 or 3. I know it is effecting all levels and it SUCKS for so many kids. I was recently at a Nike sales meeting when the President addressed this issue. It would be nice if every state had a Phil Knight (Founder of Nike) to donate over close to a half billion dollars a year to local colleges and high schools in the Portland Or. area. Maybe the NCAA should look into revenue sharing like the NFL does. I know it is only one sport but the NCAA should be able to fiqure something out. Would love to hear your thoghts…