GoBanking Logo
GoBanking Logo

These Universities Profit the Most Off Their Student-Athletes

Travel_with_me / Shutterstock.com

Major college athletics is big business, with millions of dollars in ticket sales, merchandise and television rights flowing into Division I universities every year. But in recent years, more Americans have grappled with the increasingly difficult reality of how schools manage to generate all of that revenue.

Sure, the student-athletes attracting everyone to the games typically receive scholarships worth tens of thousands of dollars, and many of the universities making money off those same athletes are public, nonprofit institutions. But this rationalization can only go so far when it’s clear that the entire system remains dependent on the nation’s finest young athletes essentially donating their labor — work that, for some of the more elite competitors, would be worth millions on the open market.

So, which universities currently benefit the most from this system? That’s what GOBankingRates sought to determine by digging into the budgets for the athletic departments of nearly 120 of the most prominent public colleges in the country. In many cases, these institutions are pulling down millions of dollars a year in profit after expenses — all because they can recruit top talent and rely on them to perform unpaid work.

Last updated: May 14, 2020

Dwight Burdette / Wikimedia Commons

Eastern Michigan University

  • Conference: MAC
  • Revenue: $30,681,039
  • Expenses: $30,681,035

Profit: $4

DenisTangneyJr / iStock.com

University of Maine

  • Conference: America East
  • Revenue: $21,666,570
  • Expenses: $21,661,278

Profit: $5,292

CTtcg / Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

McNeese State University

  • Conference: Southland
  • Revenue: $11,986,700
  • Expenses: $11,975,415

Profit: $11,285

Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

Southeast Missouri State University

  • Conference: Ohio Valley
  • Revenue: $12,633,883
  • Expenses: $12,604,529

Profit: $29,354

Pictured: Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Eddie J. Rodriguez / Shutterstock.com

Northern Illinois University

  • Conference: MAC
  • Revenue: $25,856,400
  • Expenses: $25,821,426

Profit: $34,974

Barbara Kalbfleisch / Shutterstock.com

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

  • Conference: Sun Belt
  • Revenue: $12,160,285
  • Expenses: $12,096,940

Profit: $63,345

Lamar University

  • Conference: Southland
  • Revenue: $18,379,145
  • Expenses: $18,308,056

Profit: $71,089

Francis W Naung / Shutterstock.com

State University of New York at Buffalo

  • Conference: MAC
  • Revenue: $40,834,648
  • Expenses: $40,763,071

Profit: $71,577

Daniel K. Driskill / Shutterstock.com

Utah Valley University

  • Conference: WAC
  • Revenue: $15,107,741
  • Expenses: $15,030,673

Profit: $77,068

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

  • Conference: Sun Belt
  • Revenue: $32,510,606
  • Expenses: $32,428,520

Profit: $82,086

EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Iowa State University

  • Conference: Big 12
  • Revenue: $88,753,664
  • Expenses: $88,670,048

Profit: $83,616

Bryan Pollard / Shutterstock.com

Appalachian State University

  • Conference: Sun Belt
  • Revenue: $36,940,867
  • Expenses: $36,853,981

Profit: $86,886

Wright State University

  • Conference: Horizon
  • Revenue: $12,007,969
  • Expenses: $11,909,489

Profit: $98,480

Underawesternsky / Shutterstock.com

California State University, Long Beach

  • Conference: Big West
  • Revenue: $20,892,086
  • Expenses: $20,789,684

Profit: $102,402

Rob Hainer / Shutterstock.com

Kennesaw State University

  • Conference: Atlantic Sun
  • Revenue: $25,982,350
  • Expenses: $25,868,226

Profit: $114,124

University of Central Arkansas

  • Conference: Southland
  • Revenue: $14,222,167
  • Expenses: $14,104,967

Profit: $117,200

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

North Dakota State University

  • Conference: Summit
  • Revenue: $28,144,888
  • Expenses: $28,025,664

Profit: $119,224

Holly Guerrio / Shutterstock.com

Florida Atlantic University

  • Conference: C-USA
  • Revenue: $35,275,379
  • Expenses: $35,149,886

Profit: $125,493

University of Northern Iowa

  • Conference: Missouri Valley
  • Revenue: $19,983,624
  • Expenses: $19,802,570

Profit: $181,054

Nolichuckyjake / Shutterstock.com

University of North Carolina at Asheville

  • Conference: Big South
  • Revenue: $8,868,914
  • Expenses: $8,682,200

Profit: $186,714

Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

Towson University

  • Conference: CAA
  • Revenue: $24,982,355
  • Expenses: $24,795,399

Profit: $186,956

Rapierce / Wikimedia Commons

Ball State University

  • Conference: MAC
  • Revenue: $28,634,103
  • Expenses: $28,443,728

Profit: $190,375

Kenneth C. Zirkel / Wikimedia Commons

University of Rhode Island

  • Conference: A-10
  • Revenue: $28,230,677
  • Expenses: $28,036,845

Profit: $193,832

Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

University of New Hampshire

  • Conference: America East
  • Revenue: $32,545,442
  • Expenses: $32,347,692

Profit: $197,750

Romer Jed Medina / Wikimedia Commons

New Jersey Institute of Technology

  • Conference: Atlantic Sun
  • Revenue: $17,688,478
  • Expenses: $17,469,429

Profit: $219,049

Longwood University

  • Conference: Big South
  • Revenue: $12,163,488
  • Expenses: $11,924,508

Profit: $238,980

Shane Vaughn / Wikimedia Commons

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

  • Conference: SWAC
  • Revenue: $8,759,179
  • Expenses: $8,507,080

Profit: $252,099

Sage Ross / Wikimedia Commons

Central Connecticut State University

  • Conference: Northeast
  • Revenue: $16,805,088
  • Expenses: $16,544,219

Profit: $260,869

knowlesgallery / Getty Images

Boise State University

  • Conference: Mountain West
  • Revenue: $48,109,196
  • Expenses: $47,846,748

Profit: $262,448

Susan Montgomery / Shutterstock.com

Bowling Green State University

  • Conference: MAC
  • Revenue: $24,673,957
  • Expenses: $24,393,090

Profit: $280,867

University of Massachusetts-Lowell

  • Conference: America East
  • Revenue: $21,361,106
  • Expenses: $21,078,702

Profit: $282,404

MWaits / Shutterstock.com

Oklahoma State University

  • Conference: Big 12
  • Revenue: $88,516,367
  • Expenses: $88,228,667

Profit: $287,700

MrAlexGarrido / Wikimedia Commons

University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley

  • Conference: WAC
  • Revenue: $15,061,319
  • Expenses: $14,756,557

Profit: $304,762

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Texas Tech University

  • Conference: Big 12
  • Revenue: $89,259,783
  • Expenses: $88,948,721

Profit: $311,062

Indiana State University

  • Conference: Missouri Valley
  • Revenue: $16,505,426
  • Expenses: $16,175,618

Profit: $329,808

Bryan Pollard / Shutterstock.com

University of North Carolina Wilmington

  • Conference: CAA
  • Revenue: $18,815,244
  • Expenses: $18,452,973

Profit: $362,271

Oakland University

  • Conference: Horizon
  • Revenue: $16,847,235
  • Expenses: $16,464,614

Profit: $382,621

Stephen F. Austin State University

  • Conference: Southland
  • Revenue: $17,486,183
  • Expenses: $17,102,778

Profit: $383,405

EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Montana State University

  • Conference: Big Sky
  • Revenue: $22,286,147
  • Expenses: $21,883,805

Profit: $402,342

obak Ha'Eric / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 3

Virginia Military Institute

  • Conference: Southern
  • Revenue: $14,356,990
  • Expenses: $13,937,418

Profit: $419,572

Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

University at Albany, SUNY

  • Conference: America East
  • Revenue: $23,857,184
  • Expenses: $23,435,785

Profit: $421,399

Bryan Pollard / Shutterstock.com

Western Carolina University

  • Conference: Southern
  • Revenue: $14,720,226
  • Expenses: $14,291,807

Profit: $428,419

Nicholls State University

  • Conference: Southland
  • Revenue: $9,617,268
  • Expenses: $9,182,117

Profit: $435,151

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Binghamton University

  • Conference: America East
  • Revenue: $17,709,758
  • Expenses: $17,239,683

Profit: $470,075

Baltimore Heritage / Wikimedia Commons

University of Maryland

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $98,294,571
  • Expenses: $97,819,892

Profit: $474,679

Jillian Cain Photography / Shutterstock.com

Florida Gulf Coast University

  • Conference: Atlantic Sun
  • Revenue: $16,297,752
  • Expenses: $15,808,445

Profit: $489,307

Georgia Southern University

  • Conference: Sun Belt
  • Revenue: $31,696,141
  • Expenses: $31,181,439

Profit: $514,702

Larry D. Moore / Wikimedia Commons

Sam Houston State University

  • Conference: Southland
  • Revenue: $19,102,055
  • Expenses: $18,581,115

Profit: $520,940

RDUpedia / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 3

North Carolina Central University

  • Conference: MEAC
  • Revenue: $13,861,765
  • Expenses: $13,323,995

Profit: $537,770

Thomas Trompeter / Shutterstock.com

Northern Arizona University

  • Conference: Big Sky
  • Revenue: $19,178,924
  • Expenses: $18,626,542

Profit: $552,382

Christopher Trim/CSM/REX / Shutterstock.com

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

  • Conference: Mountain West
  • Revenue: $50,568,292
  • Expenses: $50,014,197

Profit: $554,095

North Carolina A&T University

  • Conference: MEAC
  • Revenue: $14,420,476
  • Expenses: $13,847,414

Profit: $573,062

Bill Ragan / Shutterstock.com

Cleveland State University

  • Conference: Horizon
  • Revenue: $14,420,476
  • Expenses: $13,847,414

Profit: $573,062

Naeblys / Shutterstock.com

University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Conference: Horizon
  • Revenue: $18,521,054
  • Expenses: $17,894,990

Profit: $626,064

04NMAggie / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 4

New Mexico State University

  • Conference: WAC
  • Revenue: $26,320,230
  • Expenses: $25,693,309

Profit: $626,921

Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.com

University of North Florida

  • Conference: Atlantic Sun
  • Revenue: $12,790,843
  • Expenses: $12,119,397

Profit: $671,446

Sunstopper1st / Shutterstock.com

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

  • Conference: Horizon
  • Revenue: $10,882,809
  • Expenses: $10,203,286

Profit: $679,523

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

California State University, Northridge

  • Conference: Big West
  • Revenue: $18,500,309
  • Expenses: $17,799,986

Profit: $700,323

LSqrd42 / Shutterstock.com

Murray State University

  • Conference: Ohio Valley
  • Revenue: $16,827,106
  • Expenses: $16,105,420

Profit: $721,686

Ianmccor / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 3

The Citadel

  • Conference: Southern
  • Revenue: $18,401,833
  • Expenses: $17,658,688

Profit: $743,145

Koncurrentkat / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 4

South Dakota State University

  • Conference: Summit
  • Revenue: $22,168,074
  • Expenses: $21,419,827

Profit: $748,247

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

San Diego State University

  • Conference: Mountain West
  • Revenue: $55,687,184
  • Expenses: $54,933,032

Profit: $754,152

Jillian Cain Photography / Shutterstock.com

University of Central Florida

  • Conference: AAC
  • Revenue: $61,968,057
  • Expenses: $61,118,971

Profit: $849,086

University of Nebraska-Omaha

  • Conference: Summit
  • Revenue: $20,882,801
  • Expenses: $19,938,433

Profit: $944,368

sshepard / Getty Images

California Polytechnic State University

  • Conference: Big West
  • Revenue: $30,918,417
  • Expenses: $29,869,660

Profit: $1,048,757

Picasa 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Virginia Commonwealth University

  • Conference: A-10
  • Revenue: $35,798,825
  • Expenses: $34,608,626

Profit: $1,190,199

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

University of North Dakota

  • Conference: Summit
  • Revenue: $28,656,183
  • Expenses: $27,455,093

Profit: $1,201,090

BSPollard / Getty Images

North Carolina State University

  • Conference: ACC
  • Revenue: $87,976,532
  • Expenses: $86,756,449

Profit: $1,220,083

BondRocketImages / Shutterstock.com

University of California, Davis

  • Conference: Big West
  • Revenue: $37,458,859
  • Expenses: $36,143,657

Profit: $1,315,202

Jeff Zehnder / Shutterstock.com

Wichita State University

  • Conference: Missouri Valley
  • Revenue: $33,321,769
  • Expenses: $31,947,698

Profit: $1,374,071

Joe Hendrickson / Shutterstock.com

University of Louisville

  • Conference: ACC
  • Revenue: $134,155,908
  • Expenses: $132,708,762

Profit: $1,447,146

Kimberly Vlies / Wikimedia Commons

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

  • Conference: Horizon
  • Revenue: $10,728,044
  • Expenses: $9,234,942

Profit: $1,493,102

KenWiedemann / Getty Images

University of Massachusetts

  • Conference: A-10
  • Revenue: $48,081,784
  • Expenses: $46,438,521

Profit: $1,643,263

M.O. Stevens / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 3

Portland State University

  • Conference: Big Sky
  • Revenue: $14,125,441
  • Expenses: $12,476,314

Profit: $1,649,127

BSPollard / Getty Images

Clemson University

  • Conference: ACC
  • Revenue: $120,532,975
  • Expenses: $118,847,123

Profit: $1,685,852

aceshot / Getty Images

Ohio State University

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $205,556,663
  • Expenses: $203,809,715

Profit: $1,746,948

Grindstone Media Group / Shutterstock.com

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

  • Conference: C-USA
  • Revenue: $37,919,619
  • Expenses: $36,160,236

Profit: $1,759,383

East Tennessee State University

  • Conference: Southern
  • Revenue: $24,780,474
  • Expenses: $22,991,268

Profit: $1,789,206

Jillian Cain Photography / Shutterstock.com

University of Wyoming

  • Conference: Mountain West
  • Revenue: $44,910,641
  • Expenses: $43,005,108

Profit: $1,905,533

Ryan Herron / Getty Images

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Conference: ACC
  • Revenue: $104,571,404
  • Expenses: $102,430,558

Profit: $2,140,846

Pbrown111 / Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

University of Wisconsin

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $151,966,795
  • Expenses: $149,798,158

Profit: $2,168,637

Jeff Zehnder / Shutterstock.com

University of Kansas

  • Conference: Big 12
  • Revenue: $106,307,326
  • Expenses: $104,108,072

Profit: $2,199,254

Willjay / Wikimedia Commons

Illinois State University

  • Conference: Missouri Valley
  • Revenue: $28,145,272
  • Expenses: $25,744,175

Profit: $2,401,097

RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images

Colorado State University

  • Conference: Mountain West
  • Revenue: $54,728,814
  • Expenses: $52,159,851

Profit: $2,568,963

Joel Carillet / Getty Images

University of Oregon

  • Conference: Pac-12
  • Revenue: $122,541,827
  • Expenses: $119,811,239

Profit: $2,730,588

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

University of Arkansas

  • Conference: SEC
  • Revenue: $130,126,110
  • Expenses: $127,369,722

Profit: $2,756,388

dszc / Getty Images

Texas State University

  • Conference: Sun Belt
  • Revenue: $37,267,758
  • Expenses: $34,470,226

Profit: $2,797,532

EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Conference: ACC
  • Revenue: $91,647,068
  • Expenses: $88,517,077

Profit: $3,129,991

Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

University of Utah

  • Conference: Pac-12
  • Revenue: $91,386,593
  • Expenses: $87,578,834

Profit: $3,807,759

wellesenterprises / Getty Images

University of Washington

  • Conference: Pac-12
  • Revenue: $130,919,331
  • Expenses: $126,133,008

Profit: $4,786,323

sshepard / Getty Images

Virginia Polytechnic and State University

  • Conference: ACC
  • Revenue: $98,485,395
  • Expenses: $93,588,260

Profit: $4,897,135

Wolterk / Getty Images

University of South Carolina

  • Conference: SEC
  • Revenue: $140,084,150
  • Expenses: $134,863,557

Profit: $5,220,593

ehrlif / Getty Images

University of Kentucky

  • Conference: SEC
  • Revenue: $134,154,614
  • Expenses: $128,875,582

Profit: $5,279,032

leightrail / Getty Images

University of Illinois

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $115,132,186
  • Expenses: $108,696,540

Profit: $6,435,646

mtcurado / Getty Images/iStockphoto

United States Air Force Academy

  • Conference: Mountain West
  • Revenue: $60,101,907
  • Expenses: $53,530,468

Profit: $6,571,439

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

University of Nebraska

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $142,223,226
  • Expenses: $135,627,283

Profit: $6,595,943

Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com

Indiana University

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $122,933,136
  • Expenses: $116,277,652

Profit: $6,655,484

aimintang / Getty Images

Georgia State University

  • Conference: Sun Belt
  • Revenue: $39,546,233
  • Expenses: $32,629,661

Profit: $6,916,572

Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com

University of Iowa

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $137,093,027
  • Expenses: $130,117,820

Profit: $6,975,207

James R. Martin / Shutterstock.com

Central Michigan University

  • Conference: MAC
  • Revenue: $39,989,495
  • Expenses: $32,540,008

Profit: $7,449,487

Rob Hainer / Shutterstock.com

Auburn University

  • Conference: SEC
  • Revenue: $147,620,569
  • Expenses: $139,798,191

Profit: $7,822,378

Rodrigo A. Rodriguez Fuentes / Getty Images

Purdue University

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $103,092,204
  • Expenses: $95,176,957

Profit: $7,915,247

Roberto Michel / Getty Images

Louisiana State University

  • Conference: SEC
  • Revenue: $145,422,796
  • Expenses: $137,451,520

Profit: $7,971,276

wellesenterprises / Getty Images

Michigan State University

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $145,640,289
  • Expenses: $137,416,056

Profit: $8,224,233

Kzollman / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas State University

  • Conference: Big 12
  • Revenue: $86,911,309
  • Expenses: $77,633,258

Profit: $9,278,051

Wolterk / Getty Images

University of Minnesota

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $124,847,642
  • Expenses: $115,090,006

Profit: $9,757,636

gnagel / Getty Images

Florida State University

  • Conference: ACC
  • Revenue: $168,177,850
  • Expenses: $158,375,459

Profit: $9,802,391

benedek / Getty Images

Penn State University

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $165,373,214
  • Expenses: $155,184,697

Profit: $10,188,517

6381380 / Getty Images

West Virginia University

  • Conference: Big 12
  • Revenue: $102,684,423
  • Expenses: $91,807,281

Profit: $10,877,142

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

University of Alabama

  • Conference: SEC
  • Revenue: $177,481,937
  • Expenses: $166,533,013

Profit: $10,948,924

Bryan Pollard / Getty Images

University of Florida

  • Conference: SEC
  • Revenue: $161,183,765
  • Expenses: $149,144,376

Profit: $12,039,389

pabradyphoto / Getty Images

University of Michigan

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Revenue: $195,769,104
  • Expenses: $183,414,032

Profit: $12,355,072

typhoonski / Getty Images

University of Texas at Austin

  • Conference: Big 12
  • Revenue: $219,402,579
  • Expenses: $206,554,432

Profit: $12,848,147

sshepard / Getty Images

Mississippi State University

  • Conference: SEC
  • Revenue: $103,858,865
  • Expenses: $89,794,392

Profit: $14,064,473

Kristopher Kettner / Shutterstock.com

University of Oklahoma

  • Conference: Big 12
  • Revenue: $175,325,500
  • Expenses: $152,674,475

Profit: $22,651,025

kellyvandellen / Getty Images

University of Georgia

  • Conference: SEC
  • Revenue: $176,699,893
  • Expenses: $133,941,585

Profit: $42,758,308

Texas A&M University

  • Conference: SEC
  • Revenue: $212,399,426
  • Expenses: $165,782,418

Profit: $46,617,008

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates used USA Today’s 2018 NCAA finances data to discover which Division I universities profit the most off their student-athletes. GOBankingRates looked at each university’s athletic department’s (1) overall revenue and (2) overall expenses. Based on these two figures, GOBankingRates found each university’s (3) profits. GOBankingRates ranked the athletic departments from most to least profitable for the 2018 fiscal year. Only public universities were included as they are the only universities in the U.S. required to publish this data. All data was collected and is up to date as of May 4, 2020.