"To understand why the University of the Incarnate Word is making the financially burdensome move to NCAA Division I status in coming months, University of Texas Professor Bob Heere suggests a quick trip downtown. There sits the Alamodome, which operates at an annual loss of more than $1 million. “The city of San Antonio uses the Alamodome to profile itself, to brand itself, to actually give their own citizens and residents a sense of community and something they can be proud of,” said Heere, a professor of kinesiology and health education who recently helped UTSA study the effect of adding Division I football to its athletic lineup. “College sports are exactly the same. You run at a loss, but in return, you hope it increases the sense of community.”"
"Like most of more than 340 Division I programs nationwide, UIW will extract millions from its general operating budget to subsidize athletics, counting on the intrinsic value of sports programs to counter the literal costs. Last season in Division II, UIW says it spent almost $9 million on athletics, including $4.9 million on scholarships. Of that, $1.6 million was committed to football operations and scholarships. In a buildup of expenses during the next four years, athletic director Mark Papich is targeting an eventual athletic budget of about $14 million, including almost $7.6 million for an additional 75 available scholarships for all sports."
"A recent study of NCAA data by Fulks showed virtually no Football Championship Subdivision program turns a profit in athletics. While the most successful Football Bowl Championship operations, such as Texas and Ohio State, can clear $35 million or more in a year, the typical FCS school spends about $9 million above what it generates in revenues annually."
“We do know that having a successful football team might have a positive effect on enrollment, but that's only temporary,” Heere said. “An unsuccessful team can have the opposite effect.” Added Michigan sports economics Professor Rod Fort: “The usual response is that it helps with student attraction and the quality of the undergrad and faculty pool. And there is a bit of evidence that is true — but in a very small amount.”"
Rod Fort has a sports/economics blog called Sports and Monsters. There is some evidence that a winning sports team can help a college. See The Flutie Effect: When The Teams Win, More Students Apply To The College.
A related post was There's A New Book On The Economics Of College Sports