SI Vault
John Underwood
September 08, 1975
What we are encouraged to feel for college football this fall is pity. We have been reminded by college administrators and ministers of the NCAA that these are indeed hard times, that football programs are not making enough money, that various fiscal wolves are at the door (some in skirts demanding equal time), and please to get your season tickets early so we don't have to turn the stadium over to the Savings and Loan. Pity the administrators.
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September 08, 1975

Look Who's Up And About

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Q. Is it true that 90% of major college football programs operate in the red?

A. No. With few exceptions, every team in the major conferences—Big Ten, Big Eight, Southeastern and so forth—makes money. The rich, of course, get much richer. Ohio State grossed "about four million" last year and Notre Dame "in excess" of that. The latter cleared about $2 million. USC made so much money that John McKay won't even talk about it, save to say, "It's none of your business." Penn State netted almost $1 million; Nebraska netted $813,914; Florida netted $866,069. And so on.

Q. Do the rich get richer at the expense of the poor?

A. Yes, to an extent, and for that reason there is a need to find means to encourage parity. Means short of the Robin Hood proposal of Long Beach State President Dr. Stephen Horn, who wanted to split all television money 477 ways. Equality of competition is something to strive for. It was the making of the NFL. The proposed "super conference" of 75 schools (the major conferences plus leading independents) would align those with similar goals and problems; the NCAA has indicated a willingness to create such a subdivision. But until the rich see the need for parity, they will continue to make it difficult for the lowly to rise up.

Q. With polarization setting in, is the status irreversibly quo?

A. Apparently not. Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Maryland have made dramatic returns to glory, and to signing deposit slips. Even Mississippi State, a perennial SEC invalid, has had its "greatest seat sales in history" after a 9-3 season.

In 1968 Baylor, following a long sickness, got worse, winning three games and averaging 14,866 fans, lowest in the Southwest Conference in a decade. Orville Henry of the Arkansas Gazette wrote the consensus view that Baylor, athletically, "was ready for the last rites."

In 1974 Baylor won the SWC championship for the first time in 50 years, went to the Cotton Bowl (also a first), averaged 40,200 at home and showed a substantial profit. Coach Grant Teaff was named Coach of the Year. Contending again this year, Baylor has had its highest preseason ticket sale in history. Promotion Director Catfish Smith says the big executives who used to slip out the back door when he came in the front now roll out the red carpet. "I've never seen so many smiling faces," Catfish says.

Winning is always good medicine for the shorts, but it also "pays to work." Baylor, Teaff and Smith went to work. So did Athletic Director Willis Casey at North Carolina State. In his six years in that capacity the football team has not always won, but it has always made money. The Wolf-pack (booster) Club raises more than $1 million a year. The stadium (44,000 capacity), built in 1966, was to be paid for by 2004; it now appears likely that the debt will be retired by 1982.

Q. But these are pretty much big-name football institutions. What about those that have no history of success, no tradition to draw on? Can they cope?

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