The Academics Athletics Trade-Off

Publication Date: April 2009

Publisher: Center for College Affordability and Productivity

Author(s): Matthew Denhart; Robert Villwock; Richard Vedder

Research Area: Education

Keywords: Higher Education; Athletics

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


This analysis focuses on several key issues in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The intrinsic benefits of athletic programs are
discussed in the first section. Trends in graduation rates and academic performance among athletes
and how they correlate with the general student body are discussed in the second section. Finally, an
overview of the revenues and expenses of athletic department budgets are discussed in an effort to
gain a better understanding of the allocation of funds to athletics. In spite of recent growth in revenues
and expenses, the athletic department budget comprises on average only 5 percent of the entire
university budget at an FBS school, though spending and revenues have increased dramatically in
recent years. In the grand scheme of things, American higher education faces several other, arguably
more pressing, areas of reform. However, athletics is a significant and growing dimension of higher
education that warrants in-depth examination.