Saturday, January 7, 2017

Why TV Riches Aren’t Enough to Keep College Football Alive Anymore

Programs and conferences have sacrificed ticket sales for media money. What happens when that dries up?

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The business model of college football, long a financial boon to universities, is breaking down. A weeklong look at the pressures of rising costs, falling revenue and what, if anything, universities can do about it. Read the rest of the series here.

College football is sloshing around in television money. You can see it in inflated coaching salaries and practice facilities that feature spas, juice bars, and movie theaters. Clemson’s football players are getting a mini-golf course and an indoor slide.

One athletic director, in little Las Cruces, N.M., is trying to rebalance the scales. For the next couple of years, Mario Moccia plans to do all he can to keep the New Mexico State University Aggies off TV. Think of it like an NFL broadcast blackout.

“I’m choosing not to do damage to myself,” Moccia said. He suspects more people will come to the games if they can’t watch from home and the school will make up any lost revenue at the gate. Only 5 percent of the Aggies' $29 million annual athletic budget comes from TV, and Moccia figures it’s worth experimenting.

It's hard to overstate how unusual Moccia is. The pursuit of TV money has led programs and conferences to make all kinds of concessions, and while that might make short-term sense -- media money is guaranteed, ticket sales are not -- it threatens to irritate and alienate the fan base over the long term.


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