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Who Profits from Amateurism?

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Who Profits from Amateurism?

Rent-Sharing in Modern College Sports


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New research fuels the debate on the merits of compensating college athletes.

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the organization that makes the rules for college sports in North America, is at the center of an ongoing controversy about student-athletes’ rights to compensation for their skills on the gridiron, the hardwood and other fields of competition. In this razor-sharp investigation, researchers Craig Garthwaite, Jordan Keener, Matthew J. Notowidigdo and Nicole F. Ozminkowski explore the business of amateur athletics and identify the winners and losers. Sports fans, students and athletes will find this informative report a slam-dunk.


US college sports generate financial fortunes for many schools, yet student athletes receive little for their role in creating this income.

College sports in the United States, particularly men’s basketball and football at the schools that make up the “Power 5” conferences, are big business. Football alone generated $8.5 billion in 2016, and the two sports together account for 58% of the income to university athletic departments. The money pours in from television broadcasting rights, ticket sales and merchandising. The combined revenue of the Power 5 schools skyrocketed by 260% from 2008 to 2018.

In compliance with National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules restricting student-athlete compensation, the schools return ...

About the Authors

Craig Garthwaite is a professor at Northwestern University, where Matthew J. Notowidigdo is an associate professor and Nicole F. Ozminkowski is a graduate student. Jordan Keener is a graduate student at the University of Michigan. 

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