More on the High Cost of Intercollegiate Athletics


Nicholas Piotrowicz, a sportwriter for the Toledo Blade, has provided an analysis of the high cost of competing at the bottom end of Division 1 intercollegiate athletics and, in particular, the FBS division of college football. The article is titled “MAC Schools’ Cost of Athletics Up 75% over last 10 Years,” and it opens with some startling statistics: “The 12 current full members of the MAC, which includes the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University, spent more than $326 million to fund their sports teams during the 2015 fiscal year, the most recent year for which data is available. The same 12 schools spent $184 million in 2005. Adjusting for inflation, MAC schools are spending more than $100 million per year above what they were spending a decade ago. As a result, the programs—already reliant on significant financial help—are more subsidized than ever. For many MAC schools, student fees and tuition are their athletic program’s single biggest revenue stream.”

As a point of comparison, Piotrowicz notes: “In bigger conferences such as the Big Ten, subsidies are not as drastic. Rutgers’ 33.7 percent subsidy leads the Big Ten, though 11 of the 13 public Big Ten schools are subsidized at 7 percent or less. Michigan, Iowa, and Michigan State are subsidized at less than 1 percent, while Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska, and Purdue are not subsidized at all.” In contrast, “in the MAC, Toledo and Bowling Green are the only two schools that are subsidized at less than 60 percent.”

Those costs are being borne by students at the universities: “Toledo collected $10.5 million worth of mandatory student fees for the purpose of funding sports teams, while Bowling Green brought in $12.6 million. Across four years, recent graduates of UT gave about $2,000 each to fund the school’s athletics. . . . At Bowling Green, graduates give the department of athletics more than $3,200 each during a four-year undergraduate term. . . . Student fees are even steeper elsewhere in the MAC. In 2015, Miami collected $16.1 million worth of student fees—nearly half of its total revenue stream.

Akron’s need of support has doubled in the last 10 years alone. Ohio’s student fees for athletics have increased by $6.16 million during the same time, and Ball State’s jumped by $4.68 million. In 2015, Kent State collected $14.4 million in student fees, which is more than double what the department of athletics raised on its own ($6.7 million).

The debate over spending has been most heated at Eastern Michigan, which subsidizes $4 of every $5 the department of athletics spends. EMU spent nearly $34 million on athletics in 2015, $27.3 million of which came from institutional support.”

Worse, most students are unaware of the degree to which they are subsidizing intercollegiate athletics: “A 2014 study published in the Journal of Sport—a Kent State University publication—surveyed more than 3,200 students at MAC schools in regard to athletics fees. The study, led in part by Ohio sports administration professor B. David Ridpath, found a large population of students were unaware they paid a fee, and the students who were aware did not know they were paying so much to support athletics.

Told how much they were actually spending, nearly 75 percent of respondents said they wished the athletics fee would decrease or stay the same in the future. Asked how much athletics played a part in choosing a MAC school, 73 percent of respondents said it was unimportant or extremely unimportant.”

In the last section of the article, Piotrowicz focuses on what is driving costs: “One of the single biggest drivers of athletics spending is salaries.”


Piotrowicz’s complete article is available at:


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