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75% of America’s Olympic athletes attended an NCAA college. Stanford was as successful as Denmark in the Tokyo games. This is all made possible by long Saturdays drinking beer on the couch. Let’s explain how.

While the Olympics have come and gone, the events that enable the USA to field such a dominant team every year are just getting started. I’m talking about college football. Let me walk you through this seemingly weird connection. After all, American football isn’t played at the Olympics. The US dominated the summer games, totalling a leading 113 medals between 626 athletes. What did these athletes have in common? 75% attended an NCAA college. Stanford, USC, UCLA, LSU, Notre Dame; these institutions were more successful individually than most small countries. Stanford won as many medals as Denmark with 12 each. 

Let’s take this a step further, why can the US-run such sophisticated programs for sports that aren’t televised outside the Olympics? High tuition fees are only part of it, in reality, it all comes back to grown adults drinking beer and watching football all Saturday long come winter. College football is the major funding driver for college sports.

The University of Texas’s athletic program generated US$180m in 2017. 70% of that came from football. Football brings in an average of US$31m per school. Swimming, rowing and athletics bring in a combined US$2.5m on average. Football heavily subsidies the existence of such sports and in turn, helps produce the spectacles we are privileged to witness every four years.

On that note, only in the last few months have athletes been given a slice of the pie. Historically college athletes were disallowed from making any money from their name. Generational talents like Trevor Lawrence were an injury away from never making a dollar despite generating millions for the school. That changed in June in a monumental decision to overturn the status quo. 

One to finish: mind-blowingly, 40/51 of the highest-paid public servants in each US state were either football or basketball coaches (based on slightly dated data from 2013).


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