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More good writing:
Betsy McCaughey and
Michelle Malkin write for
College football is a growth industry
by Charlie Mitchell
If asked to name an
overlooked economic force in Mississippi, an answer
would be football. College football to be precise.
that the season (except for bowls) has ended and it has become clear that
Ole Miss will not meet Mississippi in the first-ever national championship
playoffs (which at least for a week or two loomed as an outside
possibility), we can take our eyes off of the turf and peek into the cash
The athletic budget at the
of Mississippi was
$73.4 million last year. Of that, 94.8 percent came from ticket purchases,
donations, sales of broadcast rights and licensed merchandise. The rest came
from student fees, the value of school-provided scholarships and even
federal funds for athletes in Work-Study programs. (Yes, strictly speaking,
college football contributes to the national debt.)
The athletic budget at
during the same year was $62.8 million, of which a greater portion, 95.2
percent, was self-generated.
There are, of course, six
additional public universities in Mississippi, lots of community colleges and
private colleges with sports teams.
Along with the two
Southeastern Conference schools, the other athletics programs cause a lot of
money to be moved around. And it is the movement of money that determines
the level of economic vitality of a state or region.
The figures, gleaned from
USA Today and other sources, do not, upon first impression, indicate
is out of line.
Ole Miss and State,
respectively, were 36th and 49th nationally in the
size of their budgets for all athletics (not just football) last year. Even
if combined, the accounts of the state’s two largest schools wouldn’t
approach the $166 million figure for Texas,
$149 million for Wisconsin or $144 million
for SEC rival Alabama.
But these things are best
examined in context.
For example, in raw
numbers there are 225 NFL players from California
and a mere 32 from Mississippi,
which makes us 16th overall. The more accurate view is per
capita. Based on Mississippi’s 3 million
California’s 38 million, Mississippi moves up to third in the nation
in producing professional football players. (Louisiana is ahead of us, but they get to
count Peyton and Eli even though most of us consider them Mississippians.)
Similarly, examining the
budgets of both SEC schools in Alabama in context shows there’s some room
for growth in Mississippi — but not much.
Sorry to do this to you,
but follow the math: Add Auburn’s $103.6 million athletic budget to ’Bama’s
and the two received and spent $247.6 million. That’s $52 per Alabaman.
Combine the Ole Miss and MSU budgets and divide by Mississippi’s population and it shows major
college athletics churning about $49 per capita.
Got to factor in stadium
size, too. Mississippi
State just expanded
Davis-Wade to 63,337 seats. Vaught-Hemingway holds 60,580, but expansion to
70,000 has started. Auburn’s
stadium holds 87,500 and ’Bama’s holds 102,000. So those schools have 65,500
more home game tickets to sell than State and Ole Miss combined.
And the Rebels and
Bulldogs still hang with them — on the field and in proportional budgets,
On sports pages last week
was the sad story that the University of
is ending its football program. The reason given was “fiscal
considerations,” detailed as the university having to come up with $20
million of the $30 million football budget.
For smaller schools —
those that don’t have TV contracts or pack fans in the stands — fielding a
team is expensive. Jackson
State had only a $6.4
million budget last year, but 60 percent of those dollars came in subsidies. Mississippi Valley’s budget was $4.4 million, but as
at UAB, ticket sales and other revenue generated only about a third of those
For the “bigs,” though,
big is getting bigger.
In 2009, the Southeastern
Conference (the paymaster for broadcast rights and such) distributed $166
million to 12 teams. This year, the SEC, which has grown to 14 teams, will
distribute $310 million — and another bucket of cash will come from the new
SEC Network on ESPN.
There’s no earthshaking
point to be made here. The rich are getting richer and the poor are
struggling in all aspects of the economy.
can do to support athletics should be done. Not many brick and mortar
industries or employers generate the financial activity that State and Ole
Miss football do.
Hotty toddy. More cowbell.
Maybe — MAYBE — one day
we’ll see university programs in this state so prosperous they support or
help support other university functions.
It could happen.
Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at