Colleges spend more money on coaches than scholarships for student-athletes

Colleges spend more money on coaches than scholarships for student-athletes

Nick Saban

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Nick Saban is the highest-paid coach in college sports.

  • Colleges and universities with big-time college football programs spend more on salaries and compensation for all of their athletics coaches than they do on student-athlete scholarships and aid.
  • In 2017, the 129 schools in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) spent a combined $1.43 billion on compensation for coaches in all sports and $1.12 billion on scholarships and aid for student-athletes.
  • Schools also spend more on facilities and equipment, and compensation for support and administrative staff.

With television contracts for schools, conferences, and the NCAA skyrocketing and the recent corruption scandal in college basketball, there has been a renewed interest in finding ways to have more of the money filter down to the people who do most of the work - the student-athletes.

To add some transparency to college athletics finances, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics unveiled the new College Athletics Financial Information (CAFI) Database. From the information in the CAFI, we can get a better sense of where those billions of dollars in revenue go, and just how little of it goes to the players.

According to the database, during the 2017 fiscal year, the 129 schools with the top football programs (in NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision) spent $1.12 billion on scholarships and aid for student-athletes in all sports. That was $310 million less than they paid on salaries and compensation for the coaches in those sports.

Things look even worse for the players if we total the five categories that account for the most in expenses (facilities & equipment, coaches' compensation, compensation for administrative and support staff, student-athlete aid, and the cost of hosting and traveling to games). Of just those expenditures, student-athlete aid accounts for less than 17% of those costs, or about one-sixth. If we include all expenses ($8.05 billion), student-athlete aid accounted for less than 14%.


total fbs college football expenses 2017 chart (2)

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