You know what? I wasn’t at all surprised yesterday when I saw USA Today’s really well-chronicled account of spending in college athletics. It’s detailed and it elaborates and even kind of foreshadows a little, I thought. Yet in the end it tells you what we already knew. Texas has deeper pockets and longer arms than anyone else.
Have some fun with that chart. Click the revenue and the expense tab and look at the divide … but then hit the conference tab. You see all of the 2011-12 Big 12 and the 2011-12 Big East, one on top of the other. Among WVU’s soon-to-be new neighbors, you won’t find Baylor and TCU because they’re private and, as such, excused from the exercise.
Nevertheless, of the 2012-13 Big 12 teams, WVU is the only one that operated on a deficit in 2010-11 … and figure that has almost everything to do with paying all those football coaches, but also a rare dip in ticket sales revenue and a difference of more than a million dollars in — wait for it — rights and licensing.
The Mountaineers outspent and outearned only Iowa State and Texas Tech, but those two made money — barely in Iowa State’s case and impressively in Teas Tech’s case. What struck me was this: WVU wasn’t even a top-two spender or earner in the Big East. That was instead Louisville and Connecticut, both Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Combine their spending and they top Texas by around $10 million. Combine their revenue and they barely top Texas.
As the reality approaches now, it begins to settle in, too.
This is not meant to belittle WVU’s chances to succeed in the conference, nor is it meant to dampen any spirits as the uptown journey begins, but it does show that the Mountaineers can’t afford too many mistakes or fail to remain competitive if they are going to be able to tip enough to get the best tables in the house.
This is the way Bill Byrne, who retired last week after 10 years as rival Texas A&M’s athletic director, spoke of Texas in USA Today article:
“They do everything they can to set themselves apart, that they are the very best, they are the elite. I believe DeLoss (Dodds, the Longhorns’ longtime AD) said ‘we are the Joneses.’ They act that way, and they spend that way.”
I wonder if there’s any way around this: WVU has to make and spend more money to make this move. But then there’s this: Spring game attendance. I’m going to try not to hurt myself making a reach here, and I know the weather was miserable, but just about everyone’s crowd was better than WVU’s — and I can’t ignore the hunch that people just didn’t care about the game this year, or perhaps that they were led to feel that way.
The Mountaineers were above only Baylor, Texas Tech and Iowa State, not quite the company they want to keep.
Now, yes, it’s disingenuous of me to say so many times before the spring game doesn’t matter, or to repeat that if I inferred that. And, yes, you can again say “Weather!” But it’s on paper and it doesn’t look good and appearances matter so much now. Hence the third-tier exploration. WVU, fresh off a 70-point BCS performance, had “approximately” 10,000. Kansas, coming off a 2-win season and celebrating the hiring of Charlie Weis, topped it and, truth be told, probably came close to doubling it.
I still think WVU is in a better (football) position than many of its new peers — certainly Kansas, if that matters — but there is a legitimate question that branches off all of this: How quickly will the culture take to this change and all that is involved with it?