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College Football World Rips Alabama AD for Crying Poverty Over Olympic Sports

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne was among the college sports figures in Washington on Tuesday to discuss the future of college sports with a congressional panel.

The advent of NIL already has shifted the landscape in a major way, and the floodgates could further open up as the amateur model faces further legal challenges. According to Byrne, the potential for college athletes to be considered university employees could imperil the entire system, as at Alabama, just two revenue sports—football and men’s basketball—support the rest of the athletic department.

“The excess revenue from these two programs [football and men‘s basketball] effectively offset the roughly $40 million annually the other 19 programs collectively run in losses each year,” Byrne said, per 247Sports. “If it weren’t for football, we would not have 21 sports at the University of Alabama.”

Byrne then cited swimming, tennis, track and soccer as sports that could be cut if the school has to pay athletes directly as result of potential new laws.

That said, he didn’t earn a lot of sympathy from observers, considering schools such as Alabama have made tens of millions of dollars on the play of unpaid athletes for decades. Many fans and pundits online criticized Byrne for his decision to quickly raise the specter of Olympic and women’s sports going away if schools have to pay their revenue-driving players.

Many pointed out the salaries of coaches—including former Alabama football coach Nick Saban, a fellow panelist at the hearing—as an area that has become incredibly inflated in a market that keeps players out of a true share in revenue.

Of course, Byrne’s argument doesn’t stand up well to scrutiny when one considers the thousands of nonrevenue teams sponsored by small schools, all the way down to the Division II, D-III and NAIA levels. Schools across the country find value in sponsoring these teams beyond the bottom line—and without massive football programs to prop them up.