College football is a professional enterprise for everyone involved except the players, which means the sport’s leaders can’t talk about the need to play games to generate revenue in the same way professional leagues can.
At the same time, it takes money to keep the lights on, money to fund scholarships, money to make the world go round.
And so it’s necessary for leaders to calculate how much they stand to lose in the event a 2020 college football season does not happen.
According to Washington University in St. Louis professor Patrick Rishe, the Power 5 conferences would lose a collective $4 billion — $62 million per school.
“These losses will likely exceed $4 billion alone this year,” he said last month. “I don’t see any scenario at present where fans are back this year — not unless teams or leagues invest heavily in testing for fans. And I don’t see that happening this year because they already have to exhaust quite an effort to ensure players and staff are tested.”
Rische’s calculation did not include conference distributions, multimedia deals, donations or corporate sponsorships. This chart shows how Division I football schools fill their coffers.
The Power 5 conferences distributed a record $2.926 billion in 2018-19, which, when added to the $4 billion Rische calculated, gets you to at least $7 billion at stake for the industry.
All told, there’s no way to exactly know how much college football programs would lose in the event of a canceled season — Do sponsors ask for their money back? What about donors? — until it actually happens.
Let’s all pray it never comes to that.