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.
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