For many a season, I’ve been crying loudly in the football wilderness about the absolutely obscene amounts of money in the game. No, not the pros. No, no. We’re talking college here. And it might be better if you sat down for this.
Let’s start with the University of Texas. With a 2009-2010 season of five wins and seven losses, Texas doesn’t sound like the place you would address first. Well, we do so because no other school made more football money during this period: revenue of $93,942,815! With a profit of … drum roll, please … $68,830,484!!! On a 5-7 season!
Yep, that’s among the findings of the U.S. Dept. Of Education which examined P&L’s of the 68 teams playing in the six major conferences. In total, for that one season, those 68 collectively took in more than $1.1 billion. That means each averaged about $15.8 million for the season; well over $1 million per game. Every game.
Aside from the staggering amount of money on the table, I have two questions for the University of Texas which played so poorly it has no bowl game this year: why did it take $25,112,331 to operate a football program for one year with just 12 games and what happened to that profit of nearly $69 million? Oh, maybe there’s a third question: will next year’s expected $69 million or so be stacked on top of that?
Ranked by profit, the University of Georgia was second: just under $71 million in revenue with a profit of $52 million. Then came Penn State: $70 million and $52 million; Michigan revenue was $63 million with profit of nearly $45 million; Florida with $68 million netting $44 million.
Though Alabama doesn’t appear in the top six, it ranked second in income behind Texas but only seventh in profit. Just out of the real money as it were. Coach Sabin had better tighten those purse strings.
Here’s another finding that burns my butt: these 68 schools had a combined profit margin of 49%! 49%! Anyone owning a pro team would be positively giddy with numbers like that. But it’s what you can do when you don’t have to pay the players. Pay them as much, that is.
But the real meat here … and the reason BCS and non-BCS separations make me so damned mad … is found elsewhere in the money swamp. Payouts on bowl games are split evenly among all teams in a conference. So, even though Texas sits home this year, it will enjoy another million or two because other teams in its conference made the post season. Found money for doing nothing.
Therein is the nut why you’ll never get rid of the BCS no matter how much logic stands against it. Money! Money, money, money. Any university president on any of these 68 campuses who announced support for a national playoff system would immediately qualify for unemployment compensation. Boosters would see to that.
So, for those of us who believe a national football playoff is the way to go, the task is to design, not a won-loss ranking like basketball, but a way for these 68 members of the collegiate mafia to participate without losing their outsized and outrageous incomes. Because if you don’t … and if everybody gets to participate on the basis of athletic merit and can split the pot more ways … there’ll never be the justice and recognition thousands of athletes work so hard for. And deserve.
Another finding of note: bowl-eligible schools in smaller conferences were almost poor by comparison. Those 53 schools split profits of $26 million with eight losing money.
And here’s yet another comparison. Texas Christian University (TCU), which got a Fiesta Bowl payout in 2010, had more 2009-2010 income than any other small school: $20 million. That would have made it 47th on the list of 68. But the TCU football program only broke even. No profit. Now you know why TCU is going to the Big East in two years. Bigger paydays.
Maybe those of us who’d like to deep six the BCS and go to a national playoff system are just so many sad souls whistlin’ in the wind. Maybe college football simply mirrors this country’s economic reality of the rich getting richer and the rest of us making do.
Somewhere along the line, American college sports … like American politics … fell victim to money. Lots and lots of money.
On the football field, we get to watch the richest schools … not necessarily the best. In politics, we get to deal with the ones that took in the most money … not necessarily … well, you know.