Sport is a big deal in the United States. Watching and playing home-grown sports like football, baseball and basketball are key parts of the nation’s culture, but the big four leagues are also commercial powerhouses, generating more profits than many other competitions could even dream of.
For example, the Dallas Cowboys generated $425 million of net profit in 2020, up $5 million on the previous year. They also grew their net asset value by 4% to $5.7 billion. In contrast, Liberty Media bought Formula One, a global sport, from Delta Topco for $4.4 billion in 2020.
This money comes from several sources. Firstly, fans who love their teams pay top dollar to watch them play in person. The price can vary from sport to sport and even from team to team. The average price of a ticket in the NBA varies from as much as $473 for the Los Angeles Lakers to just $58 for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Secondly, TV companies pay billions each year for the right to air games on their networks, and sponsors pay a lot to associate themselves with leagues, teams and athletes and get exposure to millions of fans.
Further money is generated through the sports betting markets, millions being spent with sportsbooks each year. This has led the creation of sites like OddsChecker which compare NFL betting odds to help choose which bet to make and which bookmaker to use.
The huge influence that sport has over American culture and business trickles down to other areas of society. As part of this, it has made American colleges some of the best places for aspiring athletes to train and study.
College Sports Are Big Business
While players are mostly prohibited from profiting from college sports, even when they become famous, a lot of money is generated by it.
For example, the biggest sporting event at college level is March Madness. This annual basketball tournament has become a staple on every American sports lover’s calendar. It’s discussed endlessly on TV and many friendship groups and workplaces take part in bracketing competitions, where they try to correctly guess the outcome of the competition.
Each year, the NCAA earns more than $800 million just from the TV rights for March Madness. That does not include advertising, sponsorship, ticket sales and licensing revenues.
Large sums are also generated for college football and several other sports.
This money helps to pay for some of the best sporting facilities in the world. College-level stadiums are often on par with some of the professional venues in other countries.
Michigan Stadium is the largest in the country, housing almost 110,000 fans since its renovation work in 2010. In Europe, the biggest professional stadiums don’t even have this capacity.
The largest is Camp Nou, where the soccer team FC Barcelona play their home games. It can fit 99,354 spectators. The next closest is Wembley Stadium in London, which has a 90,000 seat capacity.
Students that want the opportunity to play in these environments cannot get them anywhere outside of the United States college system.
Clear Career Progression
Every spring the NFL Draft garners all of the attention of American sports fans as they watch in anticipation to see which new players will be joining their team, and what talent their rivals have acquired.
The Draft is the main route for new talent to enter the NFL, with the majority of players coming up from college football teams. It is unique compared to similar sports in other countries. For example, there is no soccer draft for any of the major soccer leagues in Europe, nor for any major rugby leagues.
Instead, players get lucrative contracts in soccer through three routes:
- joining an academy which is affiliated with a leading team;
- being “scouted” by professionals who are paid to watch amateur games to find good talent;
- impress in a lower league team and demonstrate their value to a larger team.
Playing rugby or soccer (or almost any sport) for that matter at college or university level in Europe does not provide a clear path to a professional contract. With many choosing to do it just for fun alongside their studies.
Therefore, students studying in the US have some of the best opportunities to become a professional athlete.
It’s no secret that going to college in the United States can be incredibly expensive. Student loans often cannot be wiped after bankruptcy in the US, unlike most other debts. This means graduates can be left with to make repayments for large chunks of their lives.
During the 2018-19 academic year, average student fees at a four-year college were more than $37,000 per year, for a public four-year degree when studying out of state. Attending a private university would likely cost even more than this.
Domestic students in many European countries will pay significantly less than that, or even nothing at all.
However, if you’re a student from the US or anywhere else in the world looking to study at an American college, you may be able to get your education for free thanks to a sports scholarship.
Because of the importance of sporting success in the college system, institutions will waive tutition fees for students that demonstrate exceptional sporting talent and that commit to representing the college in competitions.
It’s not just football and basketball either, scholarships are offered to students who are talented at everything from golf to swimming.
Sport is a significant part of American culture and a huge part of the economy. It’s importance and influence is so strong that the money, influence, and excitement flows down into college sports.
As a result of this money, colleges in the United States have been able to build stadiums that are larger and more impressive that the biggest club and national stadiums of Europe. It’s also meant that leaders of US colleges are willing to waive their large fees to recruit students that show promise and potential in their chosen sport.
In return, these students get the exposure and experience of playing in these great facilities, gaining exposure to professional teams and the general public. This then leads to successful careers in professional sports leagues like the NBA and NFL.
Nowhere else in the world offers such an attractive package to aspiring athletes.