Must Be The Money: Part One
Div. IA without the BCS? Costly.
The decision this summer to add Miami and Virginia Tech to the
Atlantic Coast Conference was a signal to many that the battle for money in
big-time college athletics was about to move to another level. According to this
theory, the six largest NCAA Div. I conferences and their members are preparing
to separate themselves from their lesser (Div. I-AA, II and III) brethren,
and perhaps even from the NCAA, in an attempt to feed the money monster
they have created.
This summer Florida A&M decided
to move up to Div. I football (from I-AA), entering the fray in an attempt to
take advantage of the current economic climate. That move means leaving the
Mid Eastern Athletic Conference and seeking membership in a conference
that plays at the Div. I level in all sports.
The Black College Sports Page series "Must Be The Money" will
examine FAMU's move and analyze the effects of the coming shift on black
college athletics in general.
In Part One, Elliot Robinson takes an in-depth look at what it means
financially to play Div. I football.
Special to the BCSP
On July 21st, Florida A&M (FAMU) made a historic move.
They became a provisional member of I-A college football, the first historically
black college to do so. FAMU, a former member of the
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), was a participant
in Division I athletics in its other varsity sports, but played football as a
A statement released by FAMU Head Football Coach
Billy Joe said, "This will immediately level the playing field for
us in competition with other Division I-A programs, especially in the area
of recruiting. We are aware that we must get our infrastructure in order, such as
staffing, scholarships, coaches, funding and facilities, before we can consider
ourselves a full-fledged Division I-A program."
Coach Joe left one important factor out of the I-A football equation, i.e.,
being a member of a BCS conference.
The Wealthy Empire
BCS is an acronym for Bowl Championship Series. It could just as
easily mean "Bowl Cash Syndicate." This
entity was the brainchild of former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer.
The BCS is a package of the top four bowl games: Sugar, Orange, Fiesta
and Rose. By bringing the four bowls under one umbrella, the BCS was able to
negotiate more lucrative sponsorship and broadcast rights deals.
For the 2001-02 season, BCS revenue from television rights, title
sponsorship and bowl-related activities was $98,441,000. Last season that
number rose almost $20 million to $114,724,000. A portion of BCS revenue is distributed
to each conference. This figure does not include the payout received by each
program participating in a BCS Bowl game.
The amount distributed to the conferences for the 2002-2003 season
varied in amount from as much as $21.4 million to the Pac-10 and $16.5 million to
the SEC, to as little as $180,000 for the MEAC and SWAC.
The more publicly promoted benefit of the BCS was its attempt to ensure
that the top two teams in the country met in a national championship game. Each
year, one of the four BCS games is designated as the "National Championship" game.
The participants of this game are selected via a somewhat controversial
computer ranking system.
The remaining three BCS bowls can then choose their participants from a
pool comprised of conference champions from the ACC, Big East, Big-10, Big-12,
Pac-10 and SEC as well as two at-large bids. The at-large bids were offered as a way
to keep Notre Dame, a football independent, in the equation.
The average payout per team for a BCS bowl game during the
2001-2002 season was $12.3 million. Last season, that number increased to $14.3
million per team. Conversely, the highest per team payout for a non-BCS bowl game
in 2002-2203 was $5 million by the Capital One Bowl (SEC vs. Big-10).
Bowl Dollar Domination
Beyond the four BCS games, there are 24 other bowl contests featuring
48 teams. Well, the BCS conferences (ACC, Big East, Big-10, Big 12, Pac-10,
SEC) will account for 33 of those teams. By adding the recently sanctioned Fort
Worth Bowl to their portfolio, the Big 12 leads all conferences with nine bowl game
The bowl revenue received by Big 12 members for 2002-2003 was $26.7 million.
The leading revenue generator amongst the BCS conferences for the season
was the Big 10. Its seven bowl appearances garnered a total of $31.9 million for
its bowl participants. The seven SEC members who received bowl bids
brought in $30.9 million in bowl revenue.
The Bowl Scraps
During the 2002-2003 bowl season, Conference USA's members had the
most bowl appearances of teams not in a BCS conference with five (six for
2003-2004 with the addition of the Fort Worth Bowl).
Their bowl participants brought in a total of $5.75 million, with TCU leading
the way with $1.37 million for their Liberty Bowl appearance.
The Liberty Bowl offers the highest payout for a game featuring a member
of a non-BCS conference. Yet, it's seventh in payout amongst Non-BCS bowls.
Of the 15 top-paying Non-BCS bowl games played in 2002-2003, only seven
teams were from Non-BCS conferences. That means there isn't much bowl revenue
being afforded to the remaining Non-BCS conferences.
The biggest winner amongst Non-BCS conferences, Conference USA,
averaged $1.1 in bowl revenue per team. Three of their bowl participants
received less than $1 million (GMAC Bowl, Hawaii Bowl and New Orleans Bowl)
for their bowl appearance.
The Bowl Game
Often when teams make the jump to I-A football, they site the large amounts
of revenue that can be garnered through bowl games. Despite the limited amount
of revenue available via bowl games, they often fail to account for the expenses
that also accompany a bowl contest.
A trip to a bowl with a payout lower than $1 million can almost ensure
that your program will either break even or sustain a loss. During last season's
bowl games, programs playing in smaller bowl contests averaged $829,139 in expenses.
Those programs who played in larger bowl games, where the payout exceeded
$1 million per team, rang up $975,000 in expenses. Since most bowls have a
similar format, length of stay and ticket requirements, participants in BCS
games managed to account for almost comparable expense numbers, averaging
Unfortunately, everyone doesn't leave their bowls with the same amount in
their coiffeurs. The average net receipts for Non-BCS bowl participants in
2002-2203 was $420,703. This figure includes the losses and near losses incurred by
teams playing in bowls with less than $1 million in payout. On the other hand, the
BCS participants averaged $12.7 million as their take after expenses.
The Grass is
not always Greener
The Sun Belt and Mid-American conferences are composed primarily of
schools that made the move from I-AA to I-A within in the last 10 years. They are
now well aware of the difficulty in trying to compete at the I-A level without the
BCS level of funding. Both conferences have several schools that are struggling to
meet the attendance requirements (15,000 per home game) needed to remain a
I-A member and in the near future their programs may be sent back to I-AA.
FAMU has a really big rabbit to pull out of their helmet. With their move to
IA status, they may have to eliminate the incredibly popular Florida Classic,
though administrators say they intend to keep it. This annual contest against long time
rival Bethune-Cookman brings each school approximately $1 million in revenue.
The expenses for the Florida Classic are not high due to the deal they negotiated
with the city of Orlando and Walt Disney World, certainly nowhere near the
almost $1 million numbers that will be incurred for a I-A bowl contest.
Before schools make the move to IA, they need to ponder one point very
carefully: The BCS system for Div. IA football is set up for one purpose and one
purpose only - provide passive funding for schools in the six BCS conferences.
And from the numbers we've seen, it does its jobreally well.
© 2003 Azeez Communications, Inc.