Diverging revenues, cascading expenditures, and ensuing subsidies: The unbalanced and growing financial strain of intercollegiate athletics on universities and their students

John J. Cheslock, David B. Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


We present a three-part conceptual model that illuminates key dynamics promoting financial unsustainability within intercollegiate athletics. Revenue divergence comprises the first part as the influx of commercial athletic revenues primarily benefits a small set of universities housing prominent athletic programs. These schools then increase athletic expenditures, which promotes expenditures cascades as their spending spurs expenditure growth at other athletic programs. Because external revenues do not increase alongside expenditures at these other programs, subsidies ensue as student fees and institutional subsidies are increased to fill growing deficits. These increases, however, will be difficult to sustain in an era of tight academic budgets and rising student debt. We describe each part of the model using a range of organizational theories and use financial data from intercollegiate athletic programs to demonstrate that the patterns predicted by our framework are supported empirically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-447
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Higher Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education

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