Stewart Mandel’s observation from his Mailbag ($$) got me to thinking about one possible reaction to the new financial reality of college football.
To be clear, conference money is only one contributor to an athletic department’s finances, along with ticket sales, merchandising and donations. Colorado’s total athletic department revenue in 2017-18 was $89 million, per USA Today. Even if you gave the Buffs a Big Ten payout, they’d still massively trail Michigan State’s $145 million take.
But those extra dollars from the conference can help plug a lot of holes.
My 180-degree turn about the impact of revenue gaps was shaped in part by covering LSU’s national title run last season. The benefits of being in a conference that recently announced $44.6 million-per-school distributions were on full display with the remarkable support structure at the heart of Ed Orgeron’s program. LSU last season employed 15 off-field analysts, plus graduate assistants and “consultants.” Former USC and NFL head coach John Robinson was on the payroll. So was longtime Power 5 defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove. Analyst Jorge Munoz worked so closely with Joe Burrow he was invited to the Heisman ceremony. (Munoz is now the receivers coach at Baylor.)
LSU’s staff directory currently lists 12 individuals with the title of “analyst.” Colorado’s lists three with the comparable title of “director of quality control.” And that’s without getting into the small army of nutritionists, performance coaches and myriad other behind-the-scenes figures.
I know Mark Emmert’s wet dream is to get an antitrust exemption, but that ain’t gonna happen. Schools aren’t going to be able to collude to prevent Tucker-like contracts going forward, much to Jimmy Sexton’s pleasure. But putting a lid on the facilities race? Yeah, I can see conferences banding together to limit what the Big Ten and SEC can do with the money gush flowing their way.