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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As universities scramble to survive the financial fallout of the coronavirus, sports teams are being cut, abruptly ending thousands of student-athletes' careers and exposing a collegiate sports model that many believe is broken.

Why it matters: With concern about the fall football season growing by the day, the fear is that the cuts have only just begun.

  • Football is the only sport that generates a profit at most schools. If the season is cut short or canceled, every sport will feel it.

By the numbers: 43 Division I teams have been eliminated in the last 12 weeks, and more than 130 programs have been cut across all NCAA levels. By comparison, just 57 programs were cut in the previous three years, combined.

  • Men's and women's tennis have been hit the hardest, as have Olympic sports like volleyball. That could affect future podiums: 88% of American athletes in the Rio Games had played their sport in college.

The big picture: While schools claim these are money-saving decisions, many point to the reluctance to touch where the real fat sits — in the football budget — as proof that the NCAA model has been corrupted and lost its original purpose of providing broad-based opportunities.

  • Exhibit A: Cincinnati cut men's soccer in March, which will save the school roughly $725,000. That's less than it paid its football support staff (i.e. non-coaches) last year, and head football coach Luke Fickell earned $2.3 million.
Reproduced from NCAA Research; Chart: Axios Visuals

The state of play: No Power 5 schools (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Notre Dame) have eliminated a sports team yet. But that will change if the football season is affected and they lose out on lucrative TV deals, which comprise roughly a third of their revenue.

  • At the Group of 5 level (AAC, C-USA, MAC, MWC, Sun Belt, independents) where TV deals are smaller and even football programs often lose money, some schools (like UConn) have already cut multiple sports.
  • As you move down the divisions, the reliance on government and institutional funding only increases, so the situation is bound to get worse as the economy suffers, campuses remain closed and enrollment plummets.

Between the lines: A fact rarely acknowledged by athletic departments looking to make cuts is that when you factor in tuition payments, many "non-revenue" sports actually generate millions for universities.

  • While sports like football and basketball guarantee every athlete a full scholarship, the vast majority of sports limit them, meaning many athletes are paying full tuition.
  • So a swimming team, for example, could be generating over $1 million to the school, "but the accounting system in athletics doesn't include that $1 million," economist Andy Schwarz told SI. "That's on somebody else's books."

The last word:

"Broad-based programming is easy to talk about and expensive to do. But all of our programs will be poorer for not having those student-athletes around."
— Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, per AP

Go deeper: Coronavirus forces college sports programs to slash budgets

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - Economy & Business

Pay TV's bleak post-pandemic outlook

Data: eMarketer; Chart: Axios Visuals

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the Pay-TV industry, and with the near-term future of live sports in question, there are no signs of it getting better in 2021.

Why it matters: The fraught Pay-TV landscape is forcing some smaller, niche cable channels out of business altogether.

Big Tech lobbies hard against looming antitrust bill

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big Tech CEOs, including Apple's Tim Cook and Google's Sundar Pichai, have been jawboning lawmakers as a Senate committee takes up a key antitrust bill Thursday.

Why it matters: The bill prompting this lobbying frenzy could upend how tech's giants do business, and tech's critics see this as a "now or never" moment for Congress to check the industry's power.

Biden stock market gets Trumped

Data: Yahoo Finance; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

U.S. stocks markets performed worse during the first year of Joe Biden's presidency than during the first year of Donald Trump's presidency.

By the numbers: The S&P 500 rose 19.3% between the market close before Biden's inauguration and yesterday's market close, compared to a 24.1% increase for Trump during the similar period.