What is Revenue Generating College Sports?

What is Revenue Generating College Sports?
What is Revenue Generating College Sports?

Certain athletic programs in higher education stand out for their competitive spirit and ability to generate significant financial resources.

These programs, primarily football and basketball, contribute immensely to their institutions through various revenue streams.

This article delves into what constitutes revenue-generating college sports, their importance, and the multifaceted ways they support their colleges and universities.


What is Revenue Generating College Sports?

Revenue-generating college sports are athletic programs that significantly contribute to their colleges’ and universities’ financial well-being. They primarily include high-profile sports like football and basketball, which attract large audiences, secure substantial broadcasting deals, and garner lucrative sponsorships. These sports generate income through ticket sales, merchandise, media rights, and donations, playing a vital role in supporting athletic departments and furthering university programs.


The Importance of These Sports to Colleges

Beyond financial contributions, revenue-generating sports enhance the institution’s visibility, foster a sense of community, and aid in student recruitment and alums engagement. They are integral to building a vibrant campus life and sustaining universities’ educational missions.


What Are Revenue-Generating College Sports?

The dynamic football and basketball programs are at the heart of revenue-generating college sports. These sports captivate large in-person audiences through television viewership, driving substantial revenue from ticket sales and broadcasting rights.


College Revenue Generating Sports

The college sports ecosystem is diverse, but football and basketball primarily support the financial backbone. These sports’ ability to draw in fans and sponsors alike is unmatched, making them pivotal for the financial health of athletic programs.


Revenue Generating Athletic Programs

Athletic programs that generate revenue go beyond just the games; they encompass community engagement, alum relations, and the enhancement of student experiences. They contribute significantly not only to the athletic department’s budget but also to scholarships, facility upgrades, and other academic endeavours.


Revenue Generating College Ticket Sales

Ticket sales for football and basketball games represent a substantial portion of college sports revenue. High-demand matchups and season tickets contribute to the financial stability of these programs.


Revenue Generating College Media Rights

Media rights for broadcasting games, especially football and basketball, are a major revenue source for colleges. Lucrative deals with television networks provide a steady income stream that supports various aspects of the universities’ athletic and academic programs.


Revenue Generated breakdown

Television Rights

Television rights represent the largest revenue share at 31.1%, amounting to $4,227,000,000. This is income from networks paying for the right to broadcast college sports, predominantly football and basketball, which command large viewerships.


School and Government Funding

School and government funding contribute 17.1% to the revenue, totalling $2,327,000,000. This segment includes direct government support and internal funding for educational institutions’ programs.


School Raised Donor Funds

School-raised donor funds, totalling $2,206,000,000, account for 16.3% of revenue. These funds are sourced from generous donations by alumni, supporters, and local businesses invested in college sports.


School Ticket Sales

Ticket sales generate 12.1% of the total revenue, amounting to $1,647,000,000. This revenue comes from ticket sales to fans attending college sports events, with football and basketball typically drawing the largest crowds.


Student Fees to Support Athletics

Student fees designated to support athletic programs contribute 9.5% to the revenue, equaling $1,288,000,000. These are fees collected from the student body as part of tuition or as a separate charge to fund collegiate sports.


Other Revenue

Other revenue sources, which could include concessions, licensing, and merchandise, account for 9.3% of the total revenue, or $1,257,000,000. This diverse category captures all other income streams not classified elsewhere.


Post-Season Bowls/Championships

Post-season bowls and championships earn 4.6% of the total, $621,000,000. This includes income from college sports teams participating in post-season play, often drawing significant attention and revenue.


Revenue Earned By The Schools

Ohio State

Ohio State leads the table with the highest revenue at $251.6 million. The school’s robust athletic program has made it a frontrunner in college sports revenue generation.


Texas, marked for a future move to the SEC, stands strong with revenues amounting to $239.3 million, showcasing the financial power of its athletic department.


A titan in the collegiate sports landscape, Alabama boasts a revenue of $214.4 million, a testament to its enduring success and popularity.


Michigan, part of the Big Ten Conference, generated $210.7 million, underlining its significant contribution to college sports.


The SEC’s Georgia reports revenue figures of $203.0 million, marking their place as a key player in collegiate athletics.


LSU, another prominent name in the SEC, brought in $199.3 million in revenue, highlighting the strength of its sports programs.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M recorded revenues of $193.1 million, reinforcing the SEC’s dominance in college sports finance.


With $190.4 million in revenue, Florida continues to be a major contributor to the wealth of the SEC in collegiate sports.

Penn State

Representing the Big Ten, Penn State has garnered $181.2 million, solidifying its status among the top revenue-generating athletic departments.


Oklahoma, set to join the SEC in 2024, has revenues totalling $177.3 million, reflecting the potential for further financial growth upon its conference transition.


How is College Sports Money Spent?

Coaching/Staff Salaries

Coaching and staff salaries form the largest expense for athletic departments, with a total outlay of $4,549,000,000 in 2022, making up 35.3% of total expenses. This reflects the investment in high-quality coaching and support personnel crucial for competitive programs.



The maintenance and development of athletic facilities and other overhead costs amounted to $1,854,000,000, 14.4% of the total expenses. This category underscores the importance of state-of-the-art facilities for athlete training and competition.



Athletic scholarships, which enable talented student-athletes to pursue higher education, represented an expense of $1,806,000,000, or 14.0% of the total expenses. This significant investment highlights the role of sports as a path to academic opportunity.


Other Expenses

Other expenses, a broad category that likely includes travel, equipment, game-day operations, and more, totalled $4,692,000,000, the highest individual category, making up 36.4% of the total expenses. This demonstrates the wide range of operational costs of running comprehensive athletic programs.



The total expenses for 2022 amounted to $12,901,000,000, capturing the financial scale of operating top-tier athletic departments nationwide.


What does NIL mean?

The NCAA’s adoption of the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) policy has initiated a significant power shift in college athletics. Student-athletes can monetize their brand for the first time, altering the traditional dynamics between athletes, institutions, and commercial interests. This landmark change empowers students with financial opportunities previously unattainable under NCAA rules, potentially rebalancing the economic landscape of collegiate sports.