NCAA Championship

The Most Popular College Sports in the US

Why are college sports in the US unlike anything in the world?

The fascination with college sports in the US is steeped in tradition, community, and of course, entertainment. Unlike other countries, American universities rely on their athletic programs to represent their success and create a sense of community.

Teams can be over a century old, giving rivalries plenty of time to flourish, which provides extra excitement for fans. Students, faculty, and locals often rally behind their college teams, attending games, dressing in school colors, and engaging in traditions.

Notably, college sports in the US receive significant media coverage, including televised games, radio broadcasts, and online streaming. Fans can watch their favorite athletes make the jump from college teams to the big leagues, adding a personal touch.

The 5 Most Popular College Sports

1. Football

Unlike other collegiate sports, the football league directly impacts the NFL, and acts as the USA’s secondary football league. College football games have huge media coverage, and attendance at stadiums has been known to surpass NFL games!

If you’re looking to place bets on major season games, keep tabs on players who do well in college teams.

2. Basketball

Similarly to American Football, players’ success at the college can mean they have secured a place in the NBA. Recognized outside of the US, the NBA is widely considered the best basketball league in the world.

With half of the US population interested, in 2017 the championship game was watched by 23 million people. For the most popular college teams, the southern states dominate with Texas Tech, Kentucky and Tennessee topping the rankings.

    3. Baseball

    Baseball is one of the most popular participant and spectator sports in America and is popular at all school levels. Competitors play with a bat, ball, and gloves, with two teams of nine competing on a field with four bases.

    Collegiate baseball draws massive crowds, with top college teams drawing between 8,000 and 11,000 spectators per game. Although Texas is home to 24 teams, it’s Ole Miss who are the defending champs if you’re placing a bet!

    4. Lacrosse

    The oldest organized sport in the US, lacrosse teams pass a small rubber ball using long-handled sticks with nets. Although professional lacrosse leagues aren’t as big as basketball or football, support at the intercollegiate level is huge.

    In March, the media giant ESPN signed a four-year, eight-figure deal for the broadcast rights to Lacrosse at every level. You can expect big things from collegiate lacrosse in the next few years with Duke University topping the leader boards.

    5. Soccer

    It’s of no surprise that soccer takes its rightful place on this list, considering how popular the sport is worldwide. It involves two teams of eleven players maneuvering a ball with their feet into the competing teams’ goal.

    Soccer is less popular in the US than it is in Europe, which is reflected in its collegiate leagues. However, it is growing in popularity across the US, with survey data even suggesting it will soon surpass baseball.

    How do sports teams create revenue for US colleges?

    • The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) reported record breaking revenues of $1.15 billion in 2021. There are many sources of revenue for college sports teams, from tickets for sporting events and concession sales to merchandise.
    • Colleges also benefit from donations to their teams from alumni, including scholarships for promising young sportspeople. As well as media agreements, teams attract attention from companies who look to sponsor events in exchange for television exposure.

    Gambling on college sports

    • The online gambling industry is projected to be worth more than $145 billion by 2030. Sports betting, especially at the collegiate level is one of the main reasons why.
    • Sports betting is now legal in most states, and some college teams have even made deals with major gambling companies. Additionally, the availability of online betting sites across the world has contributed to the growth of countries such as New Zealand and the UK, placing wagers on college sports.
    • It’s important to remember that betting regulations vary from state to state, with some areas of the US imposing restrictions.

    What are the pros and cons of the college sports system?

    Some of the widely recognized advantages of college sports in the US are:

    • Financial: Colleges can create huge revenue streams to fund their academic programs, and disadvantaged students can benefit from sporting scholarships.
    • Professional Development: Collegiate leagues develop student athlete’s skills, and act as a direct feeder into national and international leagues.
    • Community: Colleges rely on their sports teams to foster a greater sense of community, for students and the local community.

    However, there are some disadvantages that come with the popularity of US college teams, such as:

    • Risk of Injury: College sports are physically demanding, leading to some Football players having long-term cognitive impairments.
    • Exploitation of student athletes: Competitors are not entitled to any revenue earned for their college beyond their scholarships.
    • Commercialization: Critics argue that colleges can focus on sport to the detriment of the academic pursuits of the university.

    It’s clear to see that collegiate sports in the US are unlike anything in the world. It’s easy to see why, as they provide great entertainment and a sense of community for all ages.

    Criticisms of the way that college sports affect competitors are important for the health of the system. However, it’s clear that the popularity of college sports creates great opportunities for colleges and student athletes alike.