Many factors may influence strategic decisions concerning athletic programs. Certainly university executives responsible for these decisions ought to take into consideration a wider spectrum of information than can be obtained solely from analyzing the impact of athletics on financial and other quantitative variables. For example, other relevant benefits are the positive influence of intercollegiate athletics on issues such as institutional unity and loyalty (Beyer and Hannah, in press) and on an institution's reputation (Shanley and Langfred, 1997). Nonetheless, carefully scrutinized empirical data about quantitative impacts of intercollegiate athletics are very important decision-making considerations.
This paper assesses extant research concerning several quantifiable effects of intercollegiate athletics. It is hoped that this effort will contribute to our state of knowledge and provide more accurate information for university executives and faculty responsible for directing athletics policy. Existing evidence is surveyed, evaluated, and extended. Although in some cases the data can be analyzed from a purely statistical standpoint without reference to economics, in other areas insights from economic analysis are important for properly evaluating existing data and for pointing empirical work in potentially fruitful directions.
The next section examines the evidence concerning the direct impact of revenues and expenses of intercollegiate athletics on university finances.