What does it mean when a university press fails? It means not that its authors are not successful or that its press was not run well. Rather it means that its university has abandoned part of its scholarly mission: namely, supporting the publication of books that are the lifeblood of its faculty — and academia.
I am not sure the comparison with athletics on the financial side is sound because of the difference in revenue generated and the scope of influence. But from a wider perspective about what we in higher education ought to value, the juxtaposition is apt.