The football teams in the top tier of college football took in a record $3.4 billion in revenue last year. But while college football is growing at breakneck speeds there is one scary sign that not everything is golden in the sport.
Earlier this month, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) announced that they were shutting down the football program.
This is sad for the players, the coaches, the students, and the fans. But what is scary is that there are a lot of schools doing a lot worse than UAB.
In 2013, UAB’s football program generated $9.0 million in revenue in Conference-USA. That pales in comparison to schools in the so-called “power” conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12) where football programs routinely bring in over $40 million in revenue.
But of the 126 FBS (formerly Division 1-A) football programs with financial data available, a whopping 39 (31%) generated less revenue than UAB.
In deciding to cut the football program, UAB president Dr. Ray Watts cited the cost of maintaining the program.
In 2013, the football program cost the school $9.0 million meaning it was essentially breaking even. However, a consultant determined that it would cost the school an additional ~$10 million per year to remain competitive.
Much of that would come in the form of one-time costs (e.g. new facilities and upgrades) that the program just cannot afford and the school was unwilling to subsidize.
UAB is not alone.
The University of Hawaii is also considering the possibility of ending its football program according to Hawaii News Now.
Hawaii generated $9.8 million in revenue in 2013, $800,000 more than UAB, but ~$3 million less than they need to keep the football team afloat.
That is just two schools. But there are 40-50 other schools whose revenue is similar, or worse, than UAB and Hawaii. If those schools can’t survive, many more will follow.
Pretty soon, the power conferences in FBS may be the only conferences in FBS.