It is an old adage that without the top men’s revenue programs—football and basketball—there would be no athletic department. The idea is that the athletic director (AD) spends any excess of revenues over costs in these sports on all of the other programs. Ipso facto, as football and men’s basketball revenue goes, so goes the economic fate of the athletic department. In some cases, the courts have determined that the original implementation of Title IX (enacted in 1972) acted to exclude football from the equation on just these grounds (e.g., Blair v. Washington State University, Washington State Supreme Court, 1987). Indeed, as far back as 1974, Texas senator John Tower proposed an amendment that would exempt “revenue generating” sports from Title IX; nobody was fooled that “revenue generating” meant anything besides football and men’s basketball. In 1995 the College Football Association (the major conferences minus the Big Ten and Pac 10) argued for the exclusion of football from Title IX in part because it funded other sports. The myth is being used at this writing to bolster the argument against the death penalty for Penn State football—it funds all of the other sports (Scranton Times-Tribune.com, 2012).
In this chapter we first document the number of athletic departments in which revenues from football and men’s basketball exceed the costs of running just those two sports. Then, for those departments for which the rest of the sports have operating deficits (indeed, many do not!), we show the number of athletic departments that can cover that deficit with their football and men’s basketball operating surplus. Finally, we examine the