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

Sep 8, 2020 - Sports

Colin Kaepernick added to Madden NFL 21

Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

EA Sports announced Tuesday that it added Colin Kaepernick to Madden NFL 21, marking his first appearance in the popular football video game series since 2016.

Why it matters: Kaepernick has not been signed to an NFL team since 2016, when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and systemic racism. EA Sports said it wanted "to see him back in our game," calling him "a starting-caliber quarterback."

Updated 6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 31,759,233 — Total deaths: 973,904 Total recoveries: 21,811,742Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 6,939,645 — Total deaths: 201,861 — Total recoveries: 2,646,959 — Total tests: 96,616,779Map.
  3. Health: CDC director says over 90% of Americans have not yet been exposed to coronavirus — Supply shortages continue to plague testing.
  4. Politics: Missouri Gov. Mike Parson tests positive for coronavirus — Poll says 51% of Republicans trust Trump on coronavirus more than the CDC.
  5. Technology: The tech solutions of 2020 may be sapping our resolve to beat the coronavirus
  6. Vaccines: Johnson & Johnson begins large phase 3 trial — The FDA plans to toughen standards.
  7. Sports: Less travel is causing the NBA to see better basketball.

Trump refuses to commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses

President Trump repeatedly refused to say on Wednesday whether he would commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election to Joe Biden, saying at a press briefing: "We're going to have to see what happens."

The big picture: Trump has baselessly claimed on a number of occasions that the only way he will lose the election is if it's "rigged," claiming — without evidence — that mail-in ballots will result in widespread fraud. Earlier on Wednesday, the president said he wants to quickly confirm a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because he believes the Supreme Court may have to decide the result of the election.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!