Are there too many football scholarships?
Football is America’s most popular and lucrative sport, but its operational costs at the college level, namely scholarships, may be too high a price.
Right now, there are 10,965 student-athletes on scholarship at Division I football programs. With an average scholarship price tag of $18,273 per year, DI schools shell out a whopping $200 million in football scholarships annually.
In addition to this giant chunk of change, football forces the cutting of other men’s sports because Title IX requires equal scholarship numbers for men’s and women’s teams and there are simply too many football players on the roster.
Are all these football scholarships worth it for colleges?
Cutting football seemingly allows athletic departments to even out scholarship numbers for men and women and balance their budgets.
But it’s not that easy, since the overwhelming majority of athletic department revenue comes from football programs. For example, Oregon, the most lucrative athletic program in the country, receives 68 percent of its revenue from its football program. Craig Pintens, a senior associate athletic director at Oregon, knows very well the importance of football, telling The Oregonian: “Football is the lifeblood of our revenue.”
So, scholarship football players, who only make up 35 percent of scholarship student-athletes, are responsible for more than two-thirds of the revenue.
By cutting the football program, Oregon’s athletic department would be underwater and most likely forced to reduce scholarships across all sports. It is clear that the 85 football scholarships are not the problem and athletic directors should look elsewhere to make cuts.
Which sports should college athletic programs cut?
Football is clearly way too lucrative to cut and it’s also too important to big-time donors. There is no easy solution to cut scholarships at major universities and student-athletes may ultimately end up paying the price.
The focus seemingly must shift to other men’s sports like tennis, swimming and wrestling. Unfortunately for many aspiring student-athletes, these lower participation sports offer greater opportunities to play in college.
Athletic departments are now in caught in a Catch-22, where there’s no easy solution for them: football programs are too expensive but they also bring in the majority of revenue. Since programs can’t cancel football, they will start shrinking other sports or relegating them to club level at the expense of student-athletes.