You’ve most likely heard an analyst or reporter discuss the importance of playing college football this season when it comes to the finances of college programs across the nation. However, until now, there hasn’t been much research suggesting just how much money would be lost if the season isn’t played.

According to one sports business professor, any estimate you’ve likely seen is probably way off the mark.

ESPN recently attempted to put a figure on the financial impact not playing college football this season would make and reached out to Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis, to answer the question.

After studying data from recent seasons, Rishe estimates the total to be over $4 billion in lost revenue if there were no college football season.

Here’s the data Rishe shared with ESPN:

Rishe estimates that the 65 Power 5 schools would collectively lose more than $4 billion in football revenues, with at least $1.2 billion of that due to lost ticket revenue. Each Power 5 school would see at least an average loss of $62 million in football revenue, including at least $18.6 million in football ticket sales, he said.

To get to this figure, the sports business program director studied recent financial data and ESPN notes the figure could actually be higher than $4 billion.

Rishe’s analysis for ESPN used publicly available data from the 2017 season from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics and the 2018 Equity in Athletics Database from the U.S. Department of Education, along with conservative projections of increases in revenue over the past two years to arrive at 2020 estimates if the U.S. were not in the midst of a pandemic. Rishe’s projected losses are actually conservative; they don’t include potential losses in media revenue, conference distributions, donations and revenues from corporate partnerships.

When you hear anyone note that college football will be played due to the financial impact of not playing, these are the figures that back up those claims.