College football revenue topped $US3.4 billion for the first time in 2013, according to data released by the Department of Education. This number makes college football one of the most lucrative sports, college or pro, in North America, and the actual number is probably even bigger.
The record number represents the revenue generated by 126 of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) teams, according to the Department of Education. On top of that, not all revenue taken in by the NCAA (e.g. ESPN’s broadcast rights to BCS and college football playoff games) is distributed to the schools.
For comparison, FBS college football is still well short of the revenue generated by Major League Baseball ($US8 billion) and the NFL ($US6 billion) in 2013, but it is in the neighbourhood of the NBA (~$US5 billion) and the NHL ($US3.7 billion).
The big difference is those leagues have unions, and the players get a chunk of the revenue that is much larger than tuition, room, and board, which is typically worth less than $US50,000 per year per athlete.
College football revenue is skyrocketing and will continue to grow.
In 2003, college football revenue was less than $US1.6 billion. In just the past 10 years, revenue has more than doubled.
There is also no sign it is going to slow down.
The 2014 season is the first with the college football playoff and the first year of ESPN’s new 12-year, $US5.6 billion contract to broadcast the games. That deal alone will mean an additional $US345 million each year for college football compared with ESPN’s old deal to broadcast the BCS bowl games.
At some point the money is just going to be too much, and the players are going to need a bigger cut.
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