In Part 1 of this series, we argued that a program of UCLA's historical stature deserves first-class facilities, especially for the football team, given the primacy of football for an athletic department's bottom line. In this post, we will explore the concept of investing in football programs and athletic programs.
There's an old saying that sometimes you have to spend money to make money, and that appears to be true in college sports, at least at Ohio State, Texas, and Oregon. As reported in a Wall Street Journal article, Ohio State makes a profit, does not take money from the school's general fund, and pumps money into the local economy.
Ohio State was one of just 19 schools to turn a profit on athletics in 2006, according to data collected by the NCAA. OSU says its athletic department is self-sufficient -- it uses sports revenues to pay for its teams and operations. It doesn't draw from the same budget that's used to fund academic departments. How much the athletic department spends is determined by how much it brings in, not by how much the university decides to give it. A 2005 economic-impact study, commissioned by OSU, estimated that the school's sports program pumps over $100 million a year into the local economy, with more than a third coming from Buckeyes fans' spending on hotels, food, parking and shopping.
In fact, at Ohio State, the athletic department actually subsidizes the university, rather than the other way around:
A significant chunk of the athletic department's budget is spent in ways that benefit the school's general fund. This year, the athletic department will spend $12 million on scholarships or "Grant-in-Aid" to pay for athletes' tuitions. A few years ago, the department contributed $5 million to help fund renovations to the campus's main library. OSU's sports program is also among the few that pays for all maintenance, security and operating costs at its facilities. (The utilities bill at the football stadium last year: $731,309.) In addition, the athletic department transfers about $1.7 million to the school's academic-support center to pay for tutors and "life skills" workshops for athletes. "I think we're paying somebody $25 an hour to tutor physics," says Mr. Smith.
It's not just recognized powerhouses like Ohio State and Texas that raise money or invest in facilities. North Carolina State has built a fundraising machine:
Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., is a tribute to the earning power of big-time college athletics. Since 2000, the school has added over $100 million in improvements, including a four-story tower with luxury suites and a football-operations center that houses three swimming pools, a weight room and a 3,500-square-foot player lounge.
But this place wasn't built on winning football. Its tenant, North Carolina State, hasn't finished higher than fourth in The Atlantic Coast Conference in over a decade and is 1-2 this season heading into tomorrow's game against heavily favored East Carolina. These facilities sit on a foundation of charitable fans, their blind faith in better seasons and one man with a knack for cultivating both.
Bobby Purcell, the 53-year-old executive director of the school's Wolfpack Club, has constructed one of the most prolific fund-raising operations in college sports history. Since he took over in 1997, the booster organization has raised over $200 million in donations for NC State athletics. The $27 million he raised in donations this year was a richer haul than several schools currently ranked in college football's top 10. Mr. Purcell's club recently surpassed 20,000 donors, which is more than four times as many as Ohio State.
Meanwhile, Oregon may nouveau riche, but it's putting some of its new-found football revenue to good use:
At first glance, the number is eye-popping: The University of Oregon athletic department spent $31.6 million on coaches and other staff last year, the biggest slice of its $78 million budget.
The Ducks' payroll more than doubled in the five years that ended in 2009-10, and that was more than double the increased cost of financial aid for athletes, according to an analysis by The Oregonian of the department's financial state.
But the Ducks aren't alone in sharp increases in spending on top coaches. Rather, their bottom line merely reflects the new order in high-level college sports: The winners spend freely, especially on leaders who can bring them more victories.
Building a successful football program (or restoring a traditional power to its rightful place) can cost money. But it's money well spent, as successful programs actually generate money for non-revenue sports and even the rest of the campus. UCLA is first-class in pretty much everything, but one place where upgrades could be used are facilities, and this is why we need a wholesale regime change in Westwood. WIth the massive new Pac-12 TV contract, the money is there for first-class facilities, especially if we had a competent athletic director. The Athletic Department should reinvest some of its revenue in new or renovated facilities, especially football facilities.
As exemplified by SI's Stewart Mandel, the national media is already well aware that UCLA needs to make major commitments to the football program; why isn't the athletic department?:
UCLA is a beautiful campus with great academics in a talent-rich area, but it simply does not spend money on football. It's a basketball school. It's currently spending $100 million to renovate Pauley Pavilion while paying its football staff (including Rick Neuheisel) a combined $2.9 million -- which is less than Oregon's Chip Kelly makes himself. Its facilities lag behind most of the Pac-12 as well.
UCLA is going to have to spend more to get a top-flight coach, as the going rate for a proven head coach is $2 million-plus. I'd expect the school to make another run at Boise State's Chris Petersen and see if his mindset has changed at all since AD Gene Bleymaier's dismissal. Mike Bellotti continues to send mixed signals about a possible return to coaching. He'd make sense, too. But if you listen to the faithful, not much will change until the school rids itself of AD Dan Guerrero.
In future posts in this series, we will look at facilities around the conference and the country and make suggestions for improvements at UCLA.