Category Archives: Football

FCS to FBS: Bowl Games

Yesterday, I shared some data on football programs that have moved from FCS to FBS from 1978-2010 in light of the news that UMass is spending more than projected since its move. The highlight – or really the lowlight – is that most programs who make the transition see less success on the football field as a result.

Nineteen programs transitioned from FCS to FBS from 1978-2010. Just six of those programs – Boise State, Connecticut, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Marshall and South Florida – have averaged more wins per season at the FBS level than they did at the FCS level. Overall, the 19 teams had winning seasons 64.4% of the time at the FCS level, but just 37.2% of the time at the FBS level. Average wins per year dropped from 6.4 in FCS to 5.39 in FBS.

However, the story isn’t all doom and gloom on the field. Somewhat interestingly, even schools who have averaged less wins at the FBS level have appeared in bowl games, which often means increased television exposure. Akron, UAB, Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and South Florida all failed to appear in a single FCS postseason game – yet each has participated in at least one bowl game at the FBS level. In fact, all nineteen teams who made the transition have participated in at least one bowl game since the move to FBS.

Boise State has appeared in bowl games every year since its move in 1996, with the exception of the 1996, 1997 and 2001 seasons. Nevada, who transitioned in 1992, has made 11 bowl appearances. Marshall will go for number nine this year, having transitioned in 1997.

This year, every bowl game is on national television. Most games appear on ESPN, with a few on ESPN 2, ESPNU, Fox and CBS. The lowest rated bowl game often outperforms the FCS national championship game, the only shot an FCS team really has at a national viewing audience. Last year, just one bowl game rated lower than the FCS national championship game: the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl, which featured Purdue against Oklahoma State. The Heart of Dallas Bowl averaged 943,000 viewers, while the FCS championship game averaged 1.1 million.

This year, seven of the 19 teams who moved from FCS to FBS from 1978-2010 will be on national television participating in bowl games. Arkansas State will be featured on ESPN as it takes on Ball State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. North Texas will take on UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on ESPNU. Middle Tennessee and Navy will appear on ESPN in the Armed Force Bowl. Buffalo, who never participated in the postseason in its five years in the FCS, will get national airtime on ESPN as it takes on San Diego State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Marshall will meet Maryland in the Military Bowl on ESPN.

UCF will do something this year only two other teams who’ve transitioned from FCS since 1978 have done: participate in a BCS bowl game. The Knights will take on Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. The other teams who’ve made BCS bowl games: Boise State and Connecticut. Boise State, will take on Oregon State in the Hawai’i Bowl this year on ESPN.

In my book, Saturday Millionaires, I devoted an entire chapter to what I call the, “intersection between athletics and academics.” Multiple studies have found that bowl game appearances can have an impact on the university. First, there’s the “advertising effect,” which refers to the fact that a bowl game appearance is essentially a 3+ hour national commercial for your university. Most universities couldn’t afford that sort of national advertisement, and it can increase awareness among high school students still making their college decision.

Multiple studies I cover in the chapter found that football success, including bowl appearances, can have a large impact on the number of out-of-state students who apply to the university and subsequently enroll. One study, by brothers and economists Devin G. Pope and Jaren C. Pope, concludes, “While a sports victory for a given school may not change the awareness of in-state students regarding its existence, the sports victory may present a significant shock in attention/awareness for out-of-state students.”

TCU is a great example. After its participation in the 2011 Rose Bowl, applications from California rose by 109 percent, while applications from Oregon increased by 200 percent. The university’s website also received over 100,000 unique hits from users who’d never visited the site before. (There’s more on the impact BCS bowl games have had on TCU and Boise State in my book, Saturday Millionaires, if that interests you.)

Back to the impact of participating in any bowl game (not just BCS bowls)…another study found that general giving (not donations to athletics, but general donations to the university) increases after a bowl game appearance. The study examined 167 institutions from 1973-1990 and found increases of 40-54 percent in general giving. I would imagine if that study was updated today the number would be even higher given the increased exposure from television.

Yet another study examined 87 universities that fielded both a Division I football and basketball team and found an average incrase of 7.3 percent per student when the football team won a bowl game. According to the study, the mean alumni contributions per student for all universities is $487. The study found that each football bowl win is worth an additional $35.55 per student. With mean enrollment at the universities in the study at 24.132, a football bowl win was found to be worth an additional $858,000 to the university.

All that being said, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell the other side of the story, which is that athletic success can only do so much for a university. (There’s also the story of what schools spend to go to bowl games, which often exceeds their share of the revenue, but that’s been told, so I won’t go into it here.)

One of the studies I covered in Saturday Millionaires found it would take 24 additional bowl appearances or 58 basketball tournament berths to compensate for the lack of Carnegie Research I status, and that Carnegie Research I status has a greater impact on overall giving than athletic success. The study also found athletic success only impacts donations by alumni, not giving by non-alumni.

However, the study concludes athletics may still be the most efficient way to improve contribution rates:

Despite this outcome, university presidents seeking to expand educational contributions still may find it advantageous to support athletic programs at their institutions. For example, building or maintaining quality athletic programs may be less costly when compared to the resource requirements to build up academic programs. Additionally, the payoff from establishing an athletic tradition may come more quickly, particularly if prospective donors have difficulty judging academic improvements and if changes in academic reputation lag behind actual improvements. (Rhoads, T.A. and Gerking, S., “Educational Contributions, Academic Quality, and Athletic Success,” Contemporary Economic Policy (Vol. 18, No. 2, 2000).)

Indirect Benefits of UMass Football Moving to FBS

Yesterday, I wrote a piece for The Motley Fool about a recent report delivered to the UMass Faculty Senate about the football program’s move to FBS and the related expenses. One of the things I didn’t delve into fully in that piece are the indirect benefits a move to FBS could afford UMass in the future.

Studies have found any number of indirect benefits from increased applications to the ability to grow enrollment to the “advertising effect” of playing football on national television. In my book, Saturday Millionaires, I devote an entire chapter to the intersection of athletics and academics and the studies that have focused on the indirect benefits. Briefly, here’s a rundown of some of the indirect benefits, quoted directly from my book….

Merely having a football team was found by one economist to increase enrollment:

Brian Goff, a professor of economics at Western Kentucky University, included the impact of adding or dropping football on student enrollment in his 2000 study by looking at three schools which added or dropped football. The three schools were Wichita State University and University of Texas-Arlington who dropped football in the mid-80s and Georgia Southern University who added football.

Examining the years 1960-1993, Goff found an average decline of 600 students per year during “no football” years at Wichita State and UT Arlington. In contrast, he found an average increase of 500 students at Georgia Southern after adding football.

Then there’s the “advertising effect,” or rather coverage of the football team that amounts to an advertisement without the athletic department or university having to buy an advertisement:

Goff explores the advertising effect in his study, focusing on instances of coverage in eight leading newspapers. He focuses on Northwestern University and Western Kentucky University during the time period of 1991-1996, which saw Northwestern go to the Rose Bowl and WKU men’s basketball make the Sweet Sixteen and women’s basketball make the Final Four.

Articles about Northwestern increased by a whopping 185 percent during 1995, the football season which ended with a Rose Bowl invite. WKU had a similar experience with articles about the university jumping from “2 or 3 in typical years to 13 and 30 in 1992 and 1993 when the men’s and women’s basketball programs enjoyed atypical successes.”

The study showed it wasn’t athletic success driving the coverage, it was athletics in general. In 1992, 70 percent of the articles written about Northwestern in those publications were about athletics. In contrast, articles related to university research accounted for a mere 5 percent. Fascinating when you consider Northwestern is a leading academic institution.

Of course, success on the football field at the FBS level can an even greater impact:

In a study by brothers and economists Devin G. Pope and Jaren C. Pope, football success in the form of being ranked in the top 20 in the AP Poll was found to increase the quantity of applications to a school by 2-8 percent. In order to achieve that same increase by lowering tuition or increasing financial aid, an adjustment of anywhere from 2-24 percent would have to be made. The study also found finishing in the top ten produced increased applications approximately equivalent to a school’s rank being improved by half in US News and World Report (e.g. 20th to 10th or 8th to 4th).

Other studies have shown increases in applications that allowed universities to either enroll larger classes or become more selective and improve their academic profile. Again, much of that success was predicated upon fielding a winning football team, but some studies did show small benefits from the mere existence of a football program.

Without the benefit of a comprehensive study, and acknowledging it is probably too early in the FBS transition to estimate the impact playing football at a higher level is having on the university, I did find some interesting data on UMass’s incoming classes during the football transition.

For performance measurements, universities measure themselves against “peer institutions.” UMass lists the following as its peer institutions: Indiana University-Bloomington, Iowa State University, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Stony Brook University, University of California-Santa Barbara, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Connecticut, University of Delaware, University of Maryland-College Park, and University of Oregon.

I pulled admissions data on UMass and its peer institutions from the past couple of years from the IPEDS database. UMass received 5.88 percent more applications last year than the previous year. By itself, that might not mean much, as many universities experience increasing applications each year. However, UMass outperformed its peer group, which had an average increase of 5.29 percent. UMass also saw 22 percent of those students enroll. Although that was static compared to the previous application cycle, it was ahead of the 1 percent downward trend its peer institutions experienced.

Does this mean UMass moving its football program to the FBS level has positively impacted the university through admissions and enrollment? No, it’s far too early to say. However, it’s definitely something UMass and the Ad Hoc Committee on FBS Football will be keeping an eye on as the football program continues to (hopefully) grow.

Next year, UMass will host half of its home schedule at the on-campus McGuirk Stadium, which you would anticipate will increase attendance. For the past two season all home games have been at Gillette Stadium, approximately 95 miles away.

Winning on the field would help, of course. The Minutemen have won just one game in each of the last two years. However, it’s important to note that most schools who have made the transition from FCS to FBS have seen their on-the-field performance decrease. Below are all of the programs who made the transition from 1978-2010 and their performance through the 2012 season:

School    FCS     FBS  
  Year Transitioned Winning % Wins/Year   Winning % Wins/Years
Akron 1987 0.525 5.89 0.346 3.96
UAB 1996 0.615 6.4 0.38 4.42
Arkansas State 1992 0.488 5.71 0.417 4.91
Boise State 1996 0.641 7.44 0.801 10.16
Buffalo 1999 0.363 4 0.243 2.875
Central Florida 1996 0.638 7.33 0.524 6.37
Connecticut 2002 0.487 5.33 0.535 6.54
Florida Atlantic 2006 0.483 5.6 0.336 4.11
Florida International 2006 0.341 3.75 0.342 4.22
Idaho 2006 0.629 7.44 0.313 3.68
Lousiana-Monroe 1994 0.598 6.88 0.371 4.33
Lousiana Tech 1989 0.517 5.64 0.511 6
Marshall 1997 0.579 7.26 0.589 7.33
Middle Tennessee St 1999 0.589 6.71 0.458 5.44
Nevada 1992 0.722 8.71 0.555 6.74
North Texas 1995 0.463 5.18 0.336 3.95
South Florida 2001 0.614 6.75 0.544 6.57
Troy 2002 0.757 9.33 0.491 6
Western Kentucky 2009 0.547 6.16 0.419 5.17

Only Boise State, Connecticut, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Marshall and South Florida have averaged more wins per year in FBS than in FCS through the 2012 season, proving it’s a, “tough row to hoe,” as my grandmother would say. However, I wouldn’t let that discourage me just yet if I were UMass….

Check back tomorrow as I look at an advantage to playing at the FBS level that UMass can (hopefully) look forward to in the future.

UMass Football Exceeding Expense Projections

This season, UMass completed it’s second season at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, college football’s highest classification. It was an important season, because it was the Minutemen’s last chance to escape probation for low attendance. While UMass did manage to exceed the 15,000 in average attendance per game required by the NCAA, it did so by a small margin (15,830). Unfortunately, it’s not the end of the problems at UMass.

An FBS football program like the one in Amherst can only be successful financially if they can generate revenue from ticket sales and contributions. Between the one-win team on the field and a split home schedule that sees the Minutemen travel 95 miles to Gillette Stadium for half of the home slate, UMass has struggled to generate the revenue it initially projected when it decided to make the move to FBS.

Last week, the UMass Faculty Senate was presented with a report from the Ad Hoc Committee on FBS Football that revealed football expenses continue to outpace projections…

Click here to keep reading Kristi’s piece on The Motley Fool.

BCS Money Dependent on Conference Affiliation Not Bowl Game

The stage is set for the college football bowl season, which means conferences and teams can start adding bowl payouts to their respective budgets. That’s because bowl payouts are based on participation, not upon who wins or loses.

Another little-known fact is that BCS bowl payouts are based upon your conference affiliation, not the BCS bowl game you’re selected to play. The nine conferences competing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level are divided into two groups: automatic-qualifiers and non-automatic qualifiers. The AQ conferences include the ACC, American Athletic Conference, Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. The non-AQ conferences include Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt.

Each AQ conference is guaranteed a spot for its conference champion, and along with that $23.9 million. That means Auburn, Baylor, Central Florida, Florida State, Michigan State, and Stanford each earned their respective conferences $23.9 million. Florida State and Auburn don’t receive any additional compensation from the BCS for playing in the national championship game.

Click here to read the rest of Kristi’s piece on The Motley Fool.

BCS Conference Games See an Increase in Attendance

SportsBusiness Daily is reporting that each BCS Conference that holds a conference championship game saw an increase in attendance this year as compared to last year.

The following chart shows how much attendance increased (or decreased) this year as compared to the last two years:

Conference % Change from 2011-2012 % Change from 2012-2013 Absolute Change from ’12-’13
SEC 1.49% 0.01% 8
ACC -12.08% 4.50% 2916
Big Ten -35.68% 59.97% 24,742
Pac-12 -46.74% 119.89% 37,913

 

Student Athletes Snag Great Swag at Bowl Games

One of the few times the NCAA allows student athletes to get a little something extra is during bowl season. Each bowl game’s host committee can provide up to 125 student athletes with gifts not to exceed $550 each. If a school is traveling a larger group of players it can purchase additional packages.

In the past, student athletes have received a variety of electronic and entertainment goodies from Beats by Dre headphones to iPad minis. Watches are also a popular bowl gift, and in recent years the “gift suite” has emerged where the student athletes are allowed to choose their own gift(s) up to the $550 limit from an impressive list of items.

bowl game reclinerSportsBusiness Journal is reporting today that this year many of the gift suites will offer, “Southern Motion’s Viva, a powered home theater recliner that has two USB ports that can charge mobile devices.”

Of course, you probably couldn’t buy a home theater recliner like this for $550 at retail, but bowl committees and the companies that power the gift suites are able to buy items at discount because they’re buying in bulk.

Here’s a sample of some of the swag bowls are giving out this year who don’t have the gift suite:

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman

Maryland vs. Marshall

Sony Playstation 4; winter hat; Ogio backpack

 

BBVA Compass Bowl

Vanderbilt vs. Houston

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3; Fossil watch; Oakley sunglasses; ESPN hat; Big Game football

 

Russell Athletic Bowl

Louisville vs. Miami

$450 Best Buy gift card and shopping trip to Best Buy to spend; Timely Watch Co. watch; Russell Athletic workout shirt

 

SportsBusiness Journal has a full list of the gifts each bowl is offering here.

 

Kristi A. Dosh is an attorney and founder of BusinessofCollegeSports.com. Her latest book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires, is available now. Visit SaturdayMillionaires.com for retailers and a sneak peak at the first chapter! Follow her on Twitter: @SportsBizMiss.

Florida Freezes Booster Fees

Gators student sectionFlorida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley and Gator Boosters Executive Director Phil Pharr recently sent a letter to Gator boosters about 2014 season tickets.

“Over the summer, we conducted an extensive, randomized survey of current and former season ticket-holders, as well as met with focus groups throughout the state. Many of you have expressed concern that Gator Boosters and the UAA have not been in tune to the issues facing our loyal fan base, and we have heard you. Based on this feedback, we began developing a plan this fall to address those concerns. Now, before we mail 2014 Gator football season ticket information in December, we want to make you aware of those major changes that we are implementing for our Gator Booster membership.”

The major news here is that there will be no increases in booster contribution levels for at least three years. In addition, payment plans can now be extended from four payments to six.

Desperate move by an athletic department with a 4-4 football team or proactive business move that will shore up the future?

I think it’s the latter. A great misconception about college athletics is that television money is the largest source of revenue for an athletic department. Wrong. It’s contributions.

Last fiscal year, Florida reported $46.1 million in contributions to the athletic department. That’s more than twice the $22.2 million Florida earned from its conference distribution, which included revenue from conference television deals, bowl earnings, March Madness payouts and more.

Based on contributions alone, Florida ranked second among public FBS schools to Texas A&M, which reported $53.4 million. However, due to the accounting differences from school to school, a better comparison is the revenue reported by schools for both ticket sales and contributions. Florida ($69.7 million) comes in fourth behind Texas ($100 million), Texas A&M ($88.4 million) and Michigan ($80.9 million) under that comparison.

To understand the importance of contributions linked to season tickets for football and basketball, consider that 82 percent, or $37.7 million, of Florida’s contributions last fiscal year were attributed to football and basketball.

In addition to freezing prices for boosters, Florida is also making other changes to encourage donors to remain loyal. First, some of the ways in which “Loyalty Points” are accrued are being modified. Instead of five priority points for each consecutive year of having football or basketball season tickets, season ticket holders can now earn 10 points for each consecutive year in each sport. In addition, the Gators are retroactively awarding “Loyalty Milestone Bonus Points” for each decade a booster has football or basketball season tickets.

Booster Loyalty Points will be increased for each consecutive year of having season tickets. Currently, a booster receives five priority points for each consecutive year of having football season tickets and five priority points for each consecutive year of having basketball season tickets. Effective for the 2014 football season and the 2014-15 basketball season, the UAA will increase Loyalty Points for each consecutive year to 10.

Looking to let your tickets go? There will be a three-month window from January 2014 to March 2014 where boosters can transfer their tickets to anyone, even if they’re not family (which is the current rule). Also, the cost of transferring tickets has been decreased.

Hold on to your tickets, however, and you will be awarded opportunities to attend a football practice in 2014 that is not open to the general public.

Montana Finds Cost-Effective Ways To Compete On Uniform Front

The trend of outfitting teams in new jerseys, helmets, shoes and even gloves seems to grow with each passing year. Some teams, like Oregon, seemingly wear a new uniform every week. Louisville added a new uniform just for home games this year. West Virginia has three different helmets to rotate with its three different jersey colors. Schools do this to excite the team, and maybe to sell a few new jerseys, but mostly they do it to attract recruits. It turns out teenagers love flashy new apparel. If you’re an adult reading this, I promise that whatever uniform you thought was most hideous was wildly popular with teenagers. Just ask one.

adidas Notre Dame Shamrock Series_front

Notre Dame’s uniform for the 2013 Shamrock Series

For that reason, every school has considered uniform changes – heck, even Notre Dame got a new uniform this year for the Shamrock Series game. Some, like Penn State, have done minor things like adding player’s names to their iconic jerseys, while others have gone all out with multiple helmets, color combos and even complimentary gloves with logos or other designs.

As you can imagine, some schools have more to spend than others. It’s not all about the cash in their bank account though.

adidas Notre Dame Shamrock Series_gloves

Notre Dame’s gloves for the 2013 Shamrock Series

Under apparel contracts athletic departments have with companies like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, schools receive what’s called a “product allowance” (i.e., free gear). However, that amount varies from school to school. Apparel contracts I have on file show most major college football programs getting over $1 million in gear. Here’s a small sample of what programs are getting for 2013-2014:

 

School Apparel Company 2013-2014 Product Allotment
Virginia Tech Nike $1,000,000
South Carolina Under Armour $1,025,000
Colorado Nike $1,565,000
Oklahoma State Nike $1,800,000
UCLA Adidas $2,000,000
Oregon Nike $2,200,000
Michigan Adidas $2,200,000

Most apparel contracts I’ve reviewed allow a program to purchase additional jerseys and other gear above and beyond their product allotment at wholesale price. Each contract is different, but quite a few of the Nike contracts I’ve read include a 2-for-1 offer on football shoes if the school orders more than a specified number (usually around 350). When you see a team wearing new uniform pieces, they’ve either ordered through their product allotment or purchased additional gear at wholesale price.

Trends at the FBS level have trickled down to FCS, where programs like University of Montana are finding ways to keep up with much smaller budgets.

Although he declined to discuss the exact amount of product allotment in the program’s Nike contract, Montana athletic director Kent Haslam said, “I think it is safe to say our contract is not at all along the lines of the larger universities.”

Nonetheless, Montana’s equipment manager, Robert Stack, has found a way to shake things up. This year, the Griz have two home jerseys and one away jersey they can match up with five different colored pants. Montana saves on costs by only purchasing new uniforms once every three years. The white, black and light gray/black pants pictured below are all from previous uniforms and used now to make different color combinations.

Montana

A look at Montana’s uniform choices this season (photo courtesy of Montana’s athletic department)

How many different helmets do you count above?

Five?

Sort of. There are five different combinations above, but just two base helmets were used: a flat maroon and a “Montana granite.” Stack does more with less by swapping out four different colored facemasks.  The facemasks cost anywhere from $28-46, according to Stack, but the Griz get more life out of them by rotating them. Two of those facemasks are leftover from previous games that used retro uniforms.

In addition to swapping out the facemasks, helmets get a new look each week with stickers, which cost just $1.50-2.00 each.

Montana spent just $242,000 last year on uniforms and equipment for all of its sports teams (everything from jerseys to golf balls). It’s a far cry from the average $1.6 million spent by public FBS schools last year, but barely short of the $263,000 spent by Louisiana-Monroe, the least spent by a public FBS school.

Despite it’s comparatively small budget, Montana has been able to take the field with a different look every single week this season. Now that’s doing more with less.

 

Kristi A. Dosh is an attorney and founder of BusinessofCollegeSports.com. Her latest book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires, is available now. Visit SaturdayMillionaires.com for retailers and a sneak peak at the first chapter! Follow her on Twitter: @SportsBizMiss.

Should James Madison University Move to FBS?

JMUEarlier this month, the JMU Board of Visitors was presented with the results of a study by CarrSports Consulting considering whether a move should be made from playing football at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The study concluded JMU is “well-positioned for a potential transition to FBS.” Recent comments from faculty, however, suggest not everyone believes the move is in the best interest of JMU or its students.

Physics professor Kevin Giovanetti said that JMU might be hurting themselves by moving into a tougher athletic conferences in the FBS.

“I think the secret of getting funding with the athletics program is success,” he said. “If you move into a tougher arena, your success deteriorates significantly, causing what I would say is a step back from some of the community interest.”

Giovanetti is right on that point. NCAA research presented at the NACDA Convention this summer showed very few institutions who improved on the field after a move from FCS to FBS. Of the 19 teams who moved from FCS to FBS from 1978 to 2010 just six teams average more wins per year at the FBS level than they did at the FCS level: Boise State, UConn, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall and South Florida. For the record, FIU and Louisiana Tech still don’t have winning seasons on average.

School FCS Wins/Year FBS Wins/Year
Boise State 7.44 10
Uconn 5.33 6.82
Florida International 3.75 3.86
Louisiana Tech 5.64 5.79
Marshall 7.26 7.44
South Florida 6.75 7

According to NCAA research, the 19 teams who moved from FCS to FBS from 1978-2010 experienced a winning season in 64.4 percent of years. That percentage dropped to 37.2 percent after a move to FBS.

However, Tom Kleinlein, athletic director at Georgia Southern University, who is moving from FCS to FBS next season, says exposure at the FBS level might be worth more than winning at the FCS level.

“Go ask someone 100 miles from Statesboro how many national championships we won at the FCS level,” he said. “No one knows.”

For the record, Georgia Southern holds six national titles.

Kleinlein is quick to point out that the FCS national championship game rarely out-rates even the lowest-rated bowl games.

Last season, the FCS championship game beat out just one bowl game: the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl, which pitted Purdue against Oklahoma State.

There’s a cost associated with that exposure, according to NCAA research. Subsidies increased an average of $1.2 million when teams reclassified from FCS to FBS.

However, CarrSports Consulting’s report for JMU states that current trends support the conclusion that athletic-generated revenues (tickets, guarantees, donations, conference distributions, etc.) growth will outpace any growth in expenses, actually decreasing the dependence on student fees.

But wait, there’s a catch….

When the report says the dependence on student fees will decrease, it doesn’t actually mean students will pay less. Currently, JMU student fees account for almost 80 percent of the $33 million it costs to fund JMU athletics. CarrSports’ report estimates that percentage will drop to 72.7 percent to 74.8 percent, but because expenses are expected to increase by 12.8 to 13.7 percent, the cost per student would still increase.

Reliance on student fees is a hot button for faculty at JMU who have been asked to weigh in on the situation.

Accounting professor Tim Louwers says it should be alumni, not current students, who fund the additional expenses associated with a move to FBS.

“It’s the alumni who really are pushing for this move, but they don’t seem willing to pay for it … so the question is, why can’t we pass that along to the alumni who want this?”

“I would be very much in support of the move if it was paid for by people who are calling for this rather than it being passed onto the students.”

The CarrSports report did estimate alumni donations would increase from $2 million per year to $4 million per year by 2019 with a move to FBS. The average public FBS university reported $12.6 million in donations last fiscal year, according to reports filed with the NCAA. However, $4 million in donations would be JMU in the company of schools like San Diego State, Marshall, Houston and Louisiana Lafayette.

What if the revenue growth doesn’t outpace the expense growth, as predicted in the report?

UMass Amherst is struggling with that currently. In December, an ad hoc committee presented its findings on the program’s move to FBS to the faculty senate, including information on expenses far beyond projections.

In fiscal year 2011, the program’s last year in FCS, football expenses totaled $4.4 million, $3.2 of which came from university support, student fees and out-of-state tuition waivers.

UMass Amherst’s first year in the FBS was expected to cost $5.4 million with $4.4 coming from the university and students. Instead, expenses totaled $6.0 million, $5.0 million of which came from university sources and student fees.

Last fiscal year, the football budget was projected to be $6.5 million, with $4.2 million from the university and students. Instead, football expenses came in at $7.2 million, with at least $4.5 million from the university and students.

Taking a wider view, UMass Amherst’s first year at the FBS level cost the university $8.2 million, according to the report the ad hoc committee presented to the faculty senate last December. Here’s a breakdown directly from the report:

7,160,339 FY13 football program budget
2,070,000 First year of McGuirk Stadium improvements debt service payments
700,000 One-year marketing budget
260,105 Gender Equity Scholarships
10,190,444 – the total expenses related to the FBS football program

We must, however, subtract the non-institutional revenues (from ticket sales, guarantees, contributions
and NCAA sponsorship) generated by the program in FY13. They total $1,969,983.

Therefore, the grand total that was spent by the university and state in support of the FBS football 
program in FY 13 was $8,220,461.

Ticket sales at UMass have been far lower than predicted, which accounts for a large portion of the budget issues at UMass. Average attendance last year was just 10,901, and now the program finds itself at risk of not meeting the base requirement for membership at the FBS level, which requires average attendance of 15,000. Should UMass not meet the attendance threshold, it would be put on probation for the next 10 years and have its membership rights restricted.

You can listen here to an NPR interview I did recently about UMass.

Of course, every school is different. For example, Boise State has put its university on the map by reclassifying to FBS and being successful on the field over the past decade and a half, which I detail in my new book, Saturday Millionaires. As I stated above, however, just six of the 19 schools who have reclassified from 1978-2010 have seen their wins per year increase (and Boise State and UConn are the only ones to have reached a BCS bowl game). That’s why every school must make this decision for itself based on all the available information. In the end, it’s a calculated risk, not a guaranteed pay day.

What say you JMU fans – do you want to see the Dukes move to FBS?

 

Kristi A. Dosh is an attorney and founder of BusinessofCollegeSports.com. Her latest book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires, is available now. Visit SaturdayMillionaires.com for retailers and a sneak peak at the first chapter! Follow her on Twitter: @SportsBizMiss.

Students Camp Out For Football Tickets

Its been seven months since the last college football game was played, and with the start of the new season rapidly approaching this Thursday students are doing whatever it takes to get their hands on tickets for the first game. From Georgia to Virginia Tech students are camping out to make sure they get good seats for their teams’ season openers.

At Clemson University, where the Tigers are set to play the University of Georgia this Saturday night, students started camping out as early as nine days prior to tickets being available. Tickets are given on a first-come first-served basis, and as any student will tell you, sitting farther from the field is never as fun.

For some this is what being a student is all about. According to ClemsonTigers.com, Aaron Nathan, a senior at Clemson, snagged the number one spot with 15-20 of his buddies, but for him that’s nothing new. He was also first in line last year to pick up tickets for the rivalry game against South Carolina.  Being a veteran to the waiting game, Nathan and his group made up a sleep chart to make sure someone is always at their tent.

Students camping out were rewarded when Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney paid a visit Friday morning with doughnuts in hand. Swinney said during his visit “that’s the passion that makes Clemson special…people trying to get tickets to the game and support the Tigers.”

At the University of Alabama students started to camp out the night before tickets were available for pickup to make sure they were one of the first 450 people in order to guarantee a lower bowl seat when the Crimson Tide faces the Virginia Tech Hokies in Atlanta. At Alabama students must already have opted in for tickets before pickup.

To entertain themselves while waiting anxiously for tickets students from Clemson and Alabama both had movie nights to pass the time.

Perhaps most interesting is that students have decided camping out is actually preferable to purchasing tickets online from their own homes.

Students at Oregon State University started a Facebook group a couple of years ago to change the ticketing distribution system and to allow camping out for tickets. Students complained that the online system was “awful” and that “the system would crash when too many students would log on.“

As Kuykendall, a senior from the University of Alabama, simply put it when he arrived 14 hours early to buy tickets, “it rewards the people who want it more.”