Collegiate athletic programs have grown tremendously in the United States over the past few years. Although the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is by far the largest governing body for college sports, several other groups exist and share the common goal of promoting athletics to students. Much debate exists about whether or not college sports are beneficial or detrimental to universities, particularly with the rising costs for operating programs. Athletics programs contribute many benefits to higher education.
The national and international exposure and visibility gained from a successful athletic department provides huge benefits to colleges. The exposure can have a positive effect on student enrollment numbers because prominent athletic programs gain valuable media exposure. In 2010, the "Tuscaloosa Times" in Alabama mentioned a study by two major universities that showed a near eight percent increase in student applications to schools with football championships the year before. In addition to increased applications and enrollment, the exposure helps solidify institutions as cornerstones of their respective communities.
In 2013, "USA Today" reported that many NCAA athletic programs received subsidy money to operate. This means that many athletic programs do not make money. However, for the programs that do generate revenue, it can be substantial. Athletic programs like the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University generate millions of dollars in revenues. Additionally, universities make significant money off championship games, media broadcasting rights and post-season contests such as the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl football games.
Athletic programs also provide non-tangible benefits such as health and wellness promotion for all students. Formal sport participation provides exercise for athletes, but it also encourages the development of intramural sports. Intramurals allow students who are not high-end athletes to still compete and enjoy sports while also benefiting from the exercise. The Department of Physical Education at Pomona-Pitzer College states, "Participation in these activities also sets the stage for adoption of a healthy lifestyle and optimal health in life after college."
Overall Student Experience
Student life is a large part of any college experience. Apart from academics, a sense of community and entertainment is central to colleges and student retention. Collegiate sport programs, just like professional sports, entertain crowds. Students flock to games and contests on campus in their spare time and cheer on the home team. When rival teams come to town, the college community comes together to offer support. Athletic teams are campus commonalities increase student satisfaction on campus, whether a student participates in a sport or not.