The liberal-leaning Urban Institute has roughly calculated the number of college scholarships that eliminating athletics could create -- and it’s in the hundreds of thousands.
Using data submitted from institutions to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the institute determined that Division I colleges and universities could save about $2.5 billion if they got rid of all sports. If that money were redistributed as scholarships that averaged $4,000 each, the institutions could fund more than 615,400 scholarships.
The institute picked $4,000 because the average award for a Pell Grant in 2016 was $3,740.
As the institute notes that in this alternate reality, eliminating all sports could cause ripple effects -- perhaps a drop in student applications, or alumni pulling their donations. Athletes would also lose their scholarships, but if they were given the same $4,000 scholarship as everyone else, at least 492,354 additional scholarships could be created.
“The attention paid to collegiate athletics is a uniquely American phenomenon,” the institute wrote. “It is so engrained in American culture that it is unlikely to disappear. But some schools are beginning to question the financial value of college sports and are cutting back in certain areas. Especially for public institutions, it is worth considering how much we feel college athletics contribute to, rather than detract from, institutions’ academic missions.”