Dear HC Athletics, Follow the Money (Part II)
Published: Friday, February 28, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 28, 2014 12:02
Two weeks ago, I wrote an article directed to the Holy Cross athletics department suggesting that our school does some reevaluation on our athletic goals. I would like to see our athletics department focus its attention on becoming a sports brand. We can do this without forfeiting any funds that are allocated to our academic excellence. With our relatively small budget, we can achieve this sports brand identity at a national level by focusing on one sport. This does not necessarily mean cuts but definitely a reallocation of funds. As I mentioned at the end of my last article, college football, basketball, and hockey share the greatest amount of television rights and so receive the national exposure a program needs to become a sports brand.
I will begin by looking at our athletics budget. According to our Athletic Department’s expense report for the 2012 – 2013 academic year, football received the most funding at $4,440,068. Men’s Basketball received $1,758,523. Men’s Ice Hockey received $1,213,557. These three teams combined received $7,412,148. This leaves the eight other men’s sports teams with a combined $2,005,512 (soccer receiving $758,337 of that sum).
To be a sports brand in this country, a school needs to be a consistent top 20 team in football, basketball, or hockey. We are already one step closer in basketball and hockey because we are in the top division, while football lags behind in D1AA. Almost half of our men’s athletics budget is pumped into a program that is in a division in which no one in the country knows who the number one team for the past couple years has been (in case you are wondering, it is North Dakota State University). I love watching football, but from a marketing standpoint, this is not money well spent. D1AA receives virtually zero television exposure and attention on a national level. Our school will never receive profitable exposure in this sport because we are too small of a school, and we cannot compete with the big schools in Division 1A. According to businessofcollegesports.com, the average budget for the top 20 NCAA D1A football programs is $21.7 million. That is more than twice as much as the funds we have to spend on all of men’s sports here combined ($9,417,660)!
Let’s turn our attention to basketball. As I have mentioned, we are in the best division, but we insufficiently fund our team to be successful. According to bbstate.com, which lists every D1 basketball programs budget from 2012, our basketball program is ranked 189th in the country for their budget. Remember our basketball team received $1,758,523 last year. According to businessofcollegesports.com, the average budget for the top 20 NCAA D1 basketball program is $6.5 million. This is much more feasible than football. Our athletics department could actually support this amount of funding towards basketball.
Funding a top 20 contender in college hockey is also affordable for our athletic budget averaging around the same as basketball. There is one blaring factor, however, and that is profitability. College hockey does not profit nearly as much as college basketball. According to an article in Boston College’s sports magazine, BC Interruption, the top 10 revenue producing programs in college hockey in 2010 averaged $3.4 million. According to businessofcollegesports.com, the top 10 revenue producing college basketball programs in 2010 averaged $9.6 million. Basketball probably edges hockey out in popularity across the country, but basketball really finds the advantage in how its playoffs system is set up.
The NCAA controls the television rights to all of its sports playoffs, however basketball is the only sport that has its own distribution fund within the NCAA (the biggest fund in the NCAA as well). There are 64 teams that make the playoffs in college basketball, and since every game is nationally televised (thanks to CBS Sports 14-year and $10.8 billion contract with the NCAA for the game rights), this is a lot of national exposure. If one of the basketball teams within your conference plays in a March Madness tournament (every conference is granted at least one bid), just for being in the same conference as the team that plays a game, your team receives money from the NCAA Basketball distribution Fund. With each additional game played, more money is dropped into your program. Take the Big East for example. Last year, the amount of games the Big East teams played in the March Madness accumulated $27,369,046. Each team, even if they lost every game during the season, in the Big East then received a portion of that money. Since there are ten teams in the conference, every team received about $2.7 million. That is already a million dollars more than our current basketball budget for men!
Being in a top conference (so not the Patriot League) in NCAA Basketball has its other perks as well. Television contracts are set up within leagues during the season, called 1st tier and 2nd tier rights, guaranteeing certain stations to have rights to every game played within your conference, if they want, so this guarantees another couple million dollars heading your teams way per season. You can even have third tier rights, which local stations buy contract rights to your games, if the 1st and 2nd right owners elect not to play your games. North Carolina University basketball made over $11 million last year in 3rd tier rights.