Where Do Most Professional Athletes Get Their Start?

Last Updated on September 12, 2022

Recently, PureGym released a study of which universities produce the most sports stars in the United States and the United Kingdom.

In the press release, the Chief Marketing Officer at PureGym, Stephen Rowe, commented on this research, stating, “If your dream is to go pro, choosing a university that consistently produces the most athletes may help to give you a leg up, especially if they’re known for having world class sports facilities or scholarships.”

Where should I go to college in the U.S.?

Every college athlete has the potential to become a professional athlete star. However, there are some U.S. universities who have produced more college athletes that reached the professional market than other universities. According to PureGym, the University of Florida has produced the highest number of professional sports stars with 750 athletes in the U.S. UF sports stars include NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and 12-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres. The universities that follow UF are as follows, with the following number of professional sports stars:

  • 2nd: University of Michigan – 633 Professional Sports Stars (Home to Alumni Tom Brady and Michael Phelps)
  • 3rd: University of Southern California – 545 Professional Sports Stars
  • 4th: University of Wisconsin-Madison – 511 Professional Sports Stars
  • 5th: University of Notre Dame – 489 Professional Sports Stars
  • 6th: Florida State University – 347 Professional Sports Stars
  • 7th: Georgia Institute of Technology – 332 Professional Sports Stars
  • 8th: Vanderbilt University – 326 Professional Sports Stars
  • 9th: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – 259 Professional Sports Stars
  • 10th: Stanford University – 246 Professional Sports Stars

Where should I go to college in the U.K.?

Like in the U.S., every U.K. college athlete has the potential to become a professional athlete. However, there are some U.K. universities who have had more college athletes more successfully reach the professional market. Durham University leads the universities in the U.K. with 141 professional star athletes. Distinguished Durham Alumni include gymnast Gabby Logan and Olympic champion Jonathan Edwards. Next, are the universities that follow Durham with the following total professional sports stars:

  • 2nd: University of Oxford – 86 Professional Sports Stars
  • 3rd: University of Cambridge – 73 Professional Sports Stars
  • 4th: Loughborough University – 38 Professional Sports Stars
  • 5th: University of Edinburgh – 31 Professional Sports Stars
  • 6th: University of Birmingham – 30 Professional Sports Stars
  • 7th: University of Bath – 28 Professional Sports Stars
  • 8th: Cardiff Metropolitan University – 25 Professional Sports Stars
  • 9th: Brunel University London – 20 Professional Sports Stars
  • 10th: Northumbria University – 19 Professional Sports Stars

How did PureGym get these results?

PureGym’s sample included every university in the U.K. and the top 50 performing universities in the U.S. Rankings came from QS Top Universities, Best College Reviews, and the Institute for Sport and Social Justice. Totals for notable alumni were calculated based on the ‘notable alumni’ listed on each university’s Wikipedia page.

What can students take from this study?

Choosing the right college is a difficult decision. The field of study, location, and financial background, all will affect a student’s decision on where to go to college. For student-athletes, that decision is even harder, as Stephen Rowe described in the press release: “Choosing the right university is a big choice in any student’s life, and if sport is a large part of what you do, that is undoubtedly going to play a part in the decision-making process too.”

Given that so much of the decision on where to go to college is out of a student’s control, this research aims to empower student athletes to take on their next chapter head on. If you would like to read more on the PureGym study and the services they provide, more information is available in the press release.


  • Madeline Myers

    Madeline C. Myers is a rising third-year law student at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Madeline received her B.A. in Political Science in January of 2022. Madeline is the Co-President of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society for this upcoming year. This is the second summer she is managing a softball team for her fellow CWRU Law peers through the local bar association. In her free time she is an avid Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers, and Guardians fan, and watches ESPN, Blue Bloods, NCIS, and CNN.

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