Category Archives: College Football

Pleading poverty

Andy Schwarz does a terrific job of exposing the bullshit behind the insistence that big time college athletics are almost universally run in the red.  (If the economics are truly that dire, why do schools keep making the jump to D-1 sports?)

Even better, he makes three proposals for more honest accounting.

Step 1: Split athletic departments into two parts, one for football and basketball, one for everything else.

In essence, this splits profit generation from how those profits are spent, and quickly disentangles the false connection between football profits and field hockey expenses.

If the two departments were split into, say, the Football and Basketball Department (FBD) and the Olympic Sports Department (OSD), the schools themselves (and Congress, if it so chooses) could make better decisions about whether FBDs were being run efficiently enough to generate sufficient profit, or whether the people in charge of the FBDs were wasting money, perhaps by paying themselves too much

Step 2: Cash accounting only.

Schools should use, and publish, cash-based accounting for their FBDs. No accrual accounting, no cost allocations, and no transfer prices. Unless an activity results in cash flowing out of the university (and not just from one university department to another), the FBD pays nothing for it.

Note: that means paying nothing for scholarships. Why? When the school charges the athletic department for a scholarship, no actual money leaves the university. The price it assigns for managerial purposes is ripe for funny-money bookkeeping…

Step 3: Provide honest incentives and use public scrutiny to keep things that way.

Once we have true measures of cash flow generated, schools should base the salary of their FBD directors on how much money they hand to the university in cash flow each year–or better yet, on a five-year average to avoid short-term gaming. To wit: the University of Texas’s FBD director could earn base pay of $50,000 per year, plus, five percent of all cash flow above a minimum target…

All of that is good.  When you’re spending public dollars, the more transparency, the better.  There’s one little problem, though.

Much as H.L. Menken advised that no one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the masses, I think it is nearly impossible to overestimate the power of profit-sharing on an administrator’s desire to show profits. Right now, if the choice is between handing your school $5 million in profits or $1 million in losses–and the latter lets you hand out raises to everyone in your department (including yourself) without affecting your tenure in any way–it’s hard to avoid the temptation to spend every dollar in your budget. Such is the oft-wasteful reality of use-it-or-lose-it budgeting: costs rise to whatever level is allowed.

Well, unless you’ve got a reserve fund to tend to, I guess.  But the overall thrust of what’s there is laudable.  If nothing else, it’s a valid platform from which to discuss meaningful reform.  When the Coalition to Save Collegiate Sports comes calling with its proposals, perhaps it’s a starting point worth raising in response.


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

“We don’t cut players. We recruit them, and we’ve got them.”

If there were any justice in this world, every team would negatively recruit against Ohio State by pointing out that Urban Meyer doesn’t pretend to prepare his players for the NFL and have it work.

In the meantime, I’ll just shake my head over the claim that P5 football isn’t semi-professional.  Is it different from the Sunday game?  Sure, there’s less parity and Meyer is right about the difference between recruiting and drafting your talent.

But to make the argument on the day of college football’s first title game under a national playoff format that the difference between the two sports grows ever wider is laughably disingenuous.


Filed under College Football

“Why Big-Time College Football Sucks”

Somebody really hates America.


Filed under College Football

One nation, under college football

Heather Dinich, of all people, gets the long-term trend to which this first college football playoff has contributed.

By doubling the number of teams contending for the sport’s greatest prize, the playoff simultaneously broadened the scope of interest in the entire season and drew the attention of fans and coaches to more games outside their region into a race that criss-crossed the country like never before.

Ohio State mattered to Baylor. TCU was leery of Mississippi State. Boise State was watching Marshall, which kept an eye on just about every other league frontrunner in the Group of 5. Everyone was tuned in to the Big 12 — a controversial conference race that became a national storyline only because the inaugural playoff made it one.

“You’re all in one big conference now,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.

Her article focuses on how the coaches dealt with the season, but the more important story is how the sport is changing from one based on strong regional fan affiliation to where it’s viewed as a more homogeneous, national one.  You know, just like every other major commercial sporting enterprise.

It didn’t start with the playoff, of course.  We’ve already gotten indications of the new direction with conference realignment and the wholesale uprooting of traditions in its wake.  The postseason is simply contributing to the process.  Accelerating it.  And it’s changing our mindset.

“Absolutely, all of those other teams that were kind of in it — the Marshalls and where Ohio State was going to fit between Baylor and TCU — I think it added and made it better for the fans and people involved to pay more attention to not just their teams but all the teams, which helped us,” Harsin said. “We probably got a few more fans on the East Coast staying up late to watch what Boise State does to see if that’s going to affect Marshall or whatever.”

I don’t think this is necessarily what people like Delany and Slive planned as they set things in motion.  (ESPN, on the other hand…)  But it’s where it’s going nonetheless.  And that’s why many of our assumptions about how the postseason will adapt and change in the future are likely inaccurate, because they’re based in a context that is becoming outmoded.  What we should probably be asking ourselves in the near future is what helps the suits market the sport to a national audience, and not just what sells in, say, Tuscaloosa.

You need a hint?  Here’s one.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

Wednesday morning buffet

It’s cold, and you’re hungry.

  • Chad Kelly plea bargains; Hugh Freeze remains coy about Kelly’s fate at Ole Miss.  C’mon, man.
  • Jonathan Taylor’s next stop is still up in the air.  Just remember, you can’t spell second chance without SEC.
  • Very nice breakdown of how Ohio State attacked Alabama on both sides of the ball.  You can bet there will be plenty of SEC coaches who will be breaking down Sugar Bowl film over the offseason.
  • Bill Connelly continues to refine the way he analyzes tempo.
  • Matt Hinton ranks all the new head coaching hires here.  (Bobo’s ranks ninth.)
  • How bad were those SEC West defenses in their five bowl game losses?  Really bad“Averages of 39.6 points allowed, 501.4 total yards allowed and 314.6 rushing yards allowed, not to mention a combined defensive third-down percentage of 55.4 percent.”
  • Life as a recruiting coordinator ain’t easy.
  • Ed Aschoff previews the SEC East for 2015.  His conclusion?  Georgia “returns arguably the East’s best team”, but don’t sleep on Tennessee.


Filed under College Football, Recruiting, SEC Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

Friday morning buffet

New year, new buffet.

  • John Chavis is your new Texas A&M defensive coordinator.  Pay is in the Muschamp range.  Sore point with LSU was a clause in Chavis’ new contract, which he never signed.
  • Seth Emerson tells us something that should come as no surprise after watching the Belk Bowl.
  • I admit that sometimes I’m still a sucker for the romance of college football.  Jonathan Chait swoons over Michigan’s hire of Jim Harbaugh.
  • Shorter Utah AD:  what is this “rift” with Kyle Whittingham to which you refer?
  • “But Coach,” Grange said. “You make money off of football. Why can’t I make money off of football?”
  • And here’s a liberal’s criticism of this era’s head coaching salaries.
  • Mark Richt had a Plan B after Mason’s Belk Bowl injury:  “Then being able to react once we lost Hutson and had to go to Plan B. Plan B was kind of I guess it made it a little bit simpler. Just give it to Nick.”


Filed under College Football, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

Spend like a champion.

I just thought I’d throw out some numbers for you to absorb and react to.

First, Jon Solomon put together this handy chart showing what the four schools in the CFP spend on athletics.

Category Alabama
Ohio State
Ohio State
Florida State
Total Revenue $143,776,550 $139,639,307 $115,271,040 $91,382,441
Athletic Revenue Increase (2005-13)* $81,489,358 $49,938,328 $75,264,435 $34,805,508
Sports/Number of Athletes 21 sports/563 athletes 36 sports/1,003 athletes 19 sports/454 athletes 20 sports/515 athletes
Annual Debt Service for Athletic Facilities
(pct of university’s total annual debt service used for athletics)
$15,980,449 (30%) $15,882,000 (5%) $19,243,594 (34%) $0 (0%)
Potential Cost of Attendance Stipend to Players $4,332 (in-state)
$5,662 (out)
$4,691 (in-state)
$5,411 (out)
$2,430 (in-state
and out-of-state)
$4,124 (in-state)
$5,720 (out)
Football Ticket Sales $36,199,233 $46,317,719 $21,604,651 $17,611,185
Donations to Athletic Department $34,233,035 $22,204,606 $46,627,597 $18,894,097
Direct Institutional Support $5,791,200 $0 $0 $0
Student Fee Revenue $0 $0 $1,524,045 $7,859,734
NCAA/Conference Payouts $23,855,929 $23,635,519 $19,123,125 $19,814,702
Broadcast, TV, Radio, Internet Rights $10,926,979 $1,962,000 $120,000 $355,000
Royalties, Licensing, Advertising and Sponsorships $11,203,182 $12,714,758 $7,139,035 $11,859,646
Football Camp Revenue $584,616 $574,771 $248,312 $0
Nike 2014-15 Contract Value $3,570,000 $4,164,014 $2,985,000 $4,400,000
Football Scholarship Costs $3,632,607 $3,243,001 $3,057,727 $3,120,676
Football Coach Pay* (From 2014) Nick Saban
Urban Meyer
Mark Helfrich
Jimbo Fisher
Football Coach CFP Bonuses $200,000 (semifinal appearance)
or $300,000 (championship appearance)
or $400,000 (championship win)
$200,000 (semifinal appearance)
or $250,000 (championship appearance)
$175,000 (semifinal appearance)
or $200,000 (championship appearance)
$75,000 (semifinal appearance)
$200,000 (championship game appearance)
$200,000 (championship win)
Football Assistant Coaches Pay* (2014) $5,213,400 $3,592,025 $3,277,584 $3,386,000
Football Support Staff Pay $2,896,666 $2,587,481 $1,481,515 $1,141,275
Football Recruiting Expenses $983,721 $564,152 $674,755 $425,796
Athletic Department Medical Expenses/Insurance $2,346,604 $1,787,936 $1,216,954 $1,483,445
Athletic Department Money Transferred to University $5,934,130 $8,279,172 $0 $3,706,921

The figures are from the 2012-3 fiscal year, but you get the gist.

The first point to take from this is that even in the new era of a four-team playoff, it takes money to make money.  It’s all well and good to talk about a Moneyball approach to building a football program, but that’s a lot easier said that done, especially because it’s hard to build a sufficient reputation to crack a top four pool if you aren’t a member of a P5 conference.  Would that change much with playoff expansion?  If the postseason were opened to all conference champs regardless of ranking, sure.  But in the meantime, you’d better be raking in the dough if you want to go to the show.

And how does Georgia compare?  Not too badly, if you go by the numbers submitted to the NCAA.  Total revenues are bigger than FSU’s.  (Note that football turned an almost $50 million dollar profit, which means the rest of Georgia’s athletic programs combined to lose something like $16 million.)  Outside of Alabama’s excess, coaching salaries don’t seem too out of line.  Georgia’s football recruiting budget is about $600,000, which also seems to fit.

You can find details on items like debt service, revenues from ticket sales/contributions and student fees, along with money transferred to the university here.  Again, nothing particularly egregious jumps out in the comparison.

Just for yuks, there’s this, too.

Looking at all this, it seems fair to say that money isn’t Georgia’s problem.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness