Just how big is FBS football? One quick way to illustrate the impact of an FBS football program on an athletic department is to look at scholarship spending. Winthrop Intelligence looked at what schools are spending on average athletic aid per athlete in each of Division I’s three subdivisions and overall (numbers from 2011–12):
- FBS: $14,215
- FCS: $9,897
- Non-Football: $9,138
Having football has some impact, as seen in the small but consistent gap over the years between FCS and Division I schools without football. But FBS is much higher than the other two. This despite the fact that the average FBS institutions has over 100 more athletes on aid than the average FCS institution and over 200 more than the average institution without football.
More revenue and the higher sport sponsorship minimum plays a part, but a big portion has to be FBS football’s 85 full grant-in-aid scholarships. FCS teams must split 63 scholarships amongst 85 counters, meaning having an FBS program essentially gives you 22 more athletes on full grants-in-aid for the same number of counters. That has to drive up the average.