Laurence Peterson asks Martin Center readers to consider whether football is a luxury for many college campuses.

The importance of college football to university education is vastly overrated. Rather than an integral part of the college experience, football means more student debt, another burden for taxpayers, and a compromised education for athletes.

The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting universities to develop costly new teaching methodologies, require expensive campus protection strategies, and has caused severe revenue declines due to reduced enrollment. Consequently, universities expect to lose millions of dollars, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Yet, surprisingly, no university administrators have canceled their high-cost, money-losing football programs to avoid academic cuts.

Why do so many universities overlook the high cost of college football when dealing with budget deficits of 15-20 percent due to COVID-19? Football contributes little to the academic mission but is the biggest athletic expense and a money-loser for the vast majority.

For the sake of their academic mission and financial survival, colleges need to consider shutting down football programs.

Judging by the financial priorities of higher education, football is a sacred cow. The ballooning salaries of coaches exemplify its larger-than-life role. More than 65 university head coaches earn over $2 million a year before bonuses. In 28 states, the highest-paid employee is a football coach.

The “mid-major” universities, roughly 200 schools, face significant budget deficits in the coming year. They receive little funding from the NCAA, TV revenue, and ticket sales. Without institutional funding, state government support, and student athletics fees, these universities cannot cover their football losses. …

… Aside from a few nationally dominant programs, many universities rely on students and the public to pay the bills. Generally, it’s about 70 percent of the cost of intercollegiate athletics, according to information from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. Mandatory student athletics fees at many universities are more than $1,000 annually and are a significant source of student debt. Those fees are often buried within the tuition bill and, at Division I schools, add up to over $1 billion annually.