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The $1 billion contradiction in Florida college football

The  billion contradiction in Florida college football
The  billion contradiction in Florida college football

 


There is a huge contradiction playing out in major college sports.

Administrators worry about money as they prepare to share revenue with players.

We have to make challenging financial decisions every year in Alabama, Crimson Tide athletic director Greg Byrne said. So if we have to do that, don't you think most others do too?

Naturally. But how can we reconcile these financial concerns with the fact that Florida, Florida State, USF and… UCF jointly aim for more than 1 billion dollars for the construction/renovation of football stadiums?

Let's try to explain this complex problem.

Why schools worry about money

The NCAA and major conferences finalized the $2.8 billion settlement of several related lawsuits.
The NCAA and major conferences finalized the $2.8 billion settlement of several related lawsuits. [ HOWARD LAO FOR | oregonlive.com ]

The NCAA and major conferences finalize a $2.8 billion settlement in the US House vs. NCAA antitrust case. To help pay the bill, NCAA payouts to conferences (and, by extension, schools) will shrink. For American Athletic Conference schools, annual profits will be approximately $500,000, according to preliminary figures from Yahoo! Sport. It's closer to $1 million in the ACC, with the SEC somewhere in the middle.

The House The agreement also allows schools to share up to $22 million with players next year. That $22 million has to come from somewhere.

These days, we have to look at every dollar we spend to make sure it goes to the best possible purpose, Gator athletic director Scott Stricklin said during last week's SEC spring meetings.

North Texas And Mississippi have both already decided that facility upgrades are not the right immediate goal.

One argument, as summarized last year by Arkansas coach Sam Pittman: If you have enough money, they'd be happy to live in a tent.

What about the facilities?

Florida State's football home, Doak Campbell Stadium, is undergoing a major renovation.
Florida State's football home, Doak Campbell Stadium, is undergoing a major renovation. [ MATT BAKER | Tampa Bay Times ]

Facility updates are not just an expense; they are also on the revenue side. Stricklin said the Gators new baseball stadium makes about seven times more than the old one.

It is unrealistic to expect income from that Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to increase sevenfold after a $400 million renovation.

But could you get close to twice (more)? Stricklin asked. If you do that, you're suddenly paying for that project, and a number of other things as well.

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The thought process is similar at USF, as the Bulls are working on a new $340 million football stadium on campus. Athletics director Michael Kelly said the stadium's new revenue streams will help the Bulls be more competitive in everything, including paying players.

For me, the capabilities are there, Kelly said.

The facilities arms race has changed

The Florida Gators Heavener Football Training Center includes hydrotherapy and other recovery areas.
The Florida Gators Heavener Football Training Center includes hydrotherapy and other recovery areas. [ MATT BAKER | Times (2022) ]

After name, image and likeness (NIL) payments became legal in 2021, DPR constructionBryan McCaffrey saw priorities shift. Facilities became less about wowing recruits and more about developing individual players and brands.

The buildings are still beautiful. They just have fewer bells and whistles waterfalls.

What can I do with a little less, because the student does not necessarily need it? said McCaffrey, whose portfolio includes Clemson's football facility and current work at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Instead, the focus is on paying for things students do Doing need. Sports medicine and recovery areas. Space for media training. And because more players can afford cars or scooters thanks to name, image and likeness, there is more parking available nearby.

With stadiums, McCaffrey says schools are focusing on improving facilities. They're also adding banquet areas, LED lighting and other technology to do more than just host football games. Both strategies increase sales through higher prices or visitor numbers.

it comes down to

USF views the proposed on-campus football stadium as an investment in the university, not just in sports.
USF views the proposed on-campus football stadium as an investment in the university, not just in sports. [ USF Athletics ]

USF trustee Oscar Horton seemed surprised that athletics was not cited as a revenue opportunity during a presentation at Tuesday's board meeting. If the Bulls could find a way into the SEC, he said, the financial implications would make some of the options discussed look like pennies.

Forget the feasibility of an SEC invite and focus on the last line. The USF budget is $2.6 billion; $20 million in revenue sharing or stadium debt seems like a rounding error.

When schools like Horton view athletics as an investment and not an expense, the continued pursuit of facilities begins to make more sense, even in an era of revenue sharing.

You can see the coordination and support from the university, Kelly said. The university cannot do everything. It will take a village. We will only be bound by what we can get from the university and what we can get from our supporters.

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Sources

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2/ https://www.tampabay.com/sports/2024/06/07/college-football-revenue-sharing-facilities-nil-florida-stadium/

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