There's a fairly simple maxim in college football: win and the donors (and their willingness to depart with large sums of money) will come out in droves. It's something that Stanford has been learning of late, with the program Harbaugh built churning out much-higher-than-usual interest from the fan base in Palo Alto. The flip side, of course, is Cal is finding out how much a poor showing on the field will translate into the bottom line.
The San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that the Golden Bears, coming off a 3-9 season that cost long-time coach Jeff Tedford his job (despite giving Cal its most successful era in the modern era of the game), are now struggling to raise the funding to pay off the debt from renovating Memorial Stadium:
UC Berkeley's plan to sell special football seats to pay off nearly half a billion dollars in stadium debt has long inspired skepticism, as if Cal were setting up a lemonade stand to finance a home mortgage.
True, each of those chairs at the newly renovated Memorial Stadium costs $40,000 to $250,000 and is yours for 40 or 50 years. But even Cal officials, who had said they would sell all 2,902 pricey seats by this month, grew skeptical of their own claims last fall.
The latest figures show sales have stagnated at 1,857 seats. Declined, in fact. Sixteen buyers gave their seats back this winter, stopping payments and cutting short their ownership deal.
Uh oh. And bear in mind, it's not a debt that goes away easily:
Cal won't start paying down the principal until 2032, when its yearly payments rise to $26 million, then $37 million, before tapering off in 2051. After a brief respite, Cal will owe a lump sum of $82 million in 2053 alone. Then it will have six decades to pay off the final 17 percent, or $75 million.
While it's on a much smaller scale, this is a lesson that UCLA needs to take note of from their northern California sister school, as the Bruins will be saddled with the costs of "renovating" Pauley Pavilion, as well as other subpar athletic facilities, while turning out a mediocre product that isn't likely to get the UCLA faithful (and the corresponding donors) out and willing to open their wallets.
Something to watch with interest as UCLA looks to recoup the cost of bringing us Old Pauley Under Glass while putting a mediocre and subpar hoops product on the floor, led by a coach with a questionable (and that's being generous) resume and reputation.