SI Vault
Bil Gilbert
September 01, 1980
There's nothing quite like an archrival for turning on a college town, and no town has more spirited folks than Columbia when Missouri takes on Oklahoma
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September 01, 1980

Hold That Tiger—big Game At Mizzou!

There's nothing quite like an archrival for turning on a college town, and no town has more spirited folks than Columbia when Missouri takes on Oklahoma

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Late in the summer of 1978 construction was completed on an addition to Faurot Field. Some 10,000 permanent seats were added beyond the south end zone, changing the shape of the stadium from parentheses to horseshoe. The improvement had no immediate effect other than the financial one intended, but this year Burks had become concerned. In midsummer, patches of turf began to turn brown and then die. Burks called in consultants, and it was determined that fungus spores, which had been blown about by the wind when the stadium was open at both ends, were now collecting in and over the grass because the airflow had diminished. Some sort of artificial circulation system might eventually be required, Burks felt. To keep grass on the field during the season at hand, he had done a lot of temporary seeding, broadcasting 270 pounds of pregerminated Manhattan Rye and Baron Bluegrass. The new grass was watered heavily, and it grew rapidly.

It had been an unusually dry fall in Columbia, and by November all the other fields, as well as patches of woods, thickets and ornamental plantings in the stadium area were bone dry. Only the regularly watered turf in Faurot Field was moist. Among others who discovered this were skunks and raccoons who began sneaking into the stadium at night, digging for grubs and beetles near the wettish surface. Their excavations became so extensive that it was feared football players might break an ankle in a skunk or coon hole. Burks and his crew were able to trap some of the animals. Burks filled in the holes so the playing surface would be smooth and safe. A young raccoon was found rattling around in a trash can on the morning of the big game—the first gatecrasher of the day. It was caught and kicked out.

Before Burks had finished his animal-control work, Bob Smith had taken up his post as a ticket taker. It would be more accurate to describe him as a ticket checker, because the gate he guards is an obscure one at the southwest corner of the stadium, used mainly by game officials and persons of semiofficial status. Normally he doesn't deal with ordinary spectators, but occasionally he must challenge and turn back a creative, fast-talking crasher.

Smith has been a gate man for the Mizzou Tigers for 15 seasons, and he regards what he does as recreation rather than work. After the game starts his gate is closed, and along with several state policemen he takes up a post just behind the visiting team's bench, toward the end zone, from which he has a good view not only of the players but also of the officials, coaches, cheerleaders, photographers and the rest of the people on the sideline. "Another job benefit," says Smith, "is that the band and the Golden Girls [a troupe of statuesque dancers] march in right past me. About the only drawback is that I miss my Saturday afternoon golf game, but I can golf all year long and there are only six Saturdays a year to watch the Tigers. This is the best way to watch them."

Smith is one of 91 gate men at Faurot Field. They are mostly local business and professional people, and many of them are connected, as Smith is, with State Farm Mutual Insurance. The reason for this is that the head of the crew, Don Mosby, is the owner of the local State Farm agency. "There's absolutely no problem getting people," says Mosby. "We have a waiting list for gate jobs, and nobody leaves unless they absolutely have to. There was a fellow who had been with us for 10 years or so but had to give it up because his company transferred him to a job in another state. He wrote me a letter this summer about his memories of these Saturdays and how much he would miss them. It was a beautiful letter. Before the first game this year I got my bunch together and read them that letter. There were some wet eyes in the crowd. This means a lot to us, not just because of seeing the game, but because it gives us a feeling that we're making a contribution to Mizzou football."

Mosby and his men are among the thousand or so local citizens who take tickets, usher, hawk and operate concession booths at Tiger games. Typically, the concessionaires represent civic or church groups and work the games as a means of raising money for their nonprofit organizations. (On a good day a volunteer crew at a hot-dog stand can gross $500, about 20% of which will go to their cause or charity.)

When the take from everything—tickets, concessions, scoreboard advertising, radio and TV rights—is added up, the Oklahoma game will produce about half a million dollars in gross revenue for the Missouri athletic department, which will have shelled out $230,000 to put the game on. (Not included in the expenses of any one game are a number of fixed costs: the salaries of coaches, scholarships of the players, equipment, training and maintenance outlays.) About $15,000 will be paid to suppliers of the food, drinks and souvenirs the volunteer concessionaires sell; $2,700 for police protection; $1,200 for the fairly lavish buffet luncheon spreads served in the press box and adjacent VIP lounge; $2,700 for game officials; $100 for the rental of golf carts to transport press people and their equipment; and $7,100 to clean up the litter afterward. Far and away the biggest item will be the $166,481 paid to the University of Oklahoma for its one-half share of the general-admission ticket sales.

In the Big Eight, home teams retain all the profits from concessions, which is one reason Mizzou athletic-department executives worry almost as much about the weather—hoping for days that encourage a lot of eating and drinking—as they do about the outcome of the games. Last Nov. 17 was a beautiful day in Columbia, with a clear sky and the temperature in the '70s, warm enough for soda (one million ounces of which were sold) but not too warm for hot dogs (half a ton of which were consumed).

The Missouri athletic department just about breaks even at the end of a year, with operating costs and income now more or less balancing out at about $6.9 million. On both sides of the ledger football is far and away the most important activity; according to Dave Hart it accounts for 83%, or about $5.7 million of the department's annual revenue. (Receipts from non-conference games, away appearances against other Big Eight schools and money the conference receives for TV and bowl appearances and splits among the members add to the football income.) On the other hand, it costs about $3.2 million to operate a football program such as Old Mizzou has. Major expense items in addition to payments to opponents are: $357,000 for the salaries of coaches and other football aides; $314,000 for scholarships for football players; $234,000 for team travel; and $137,500 for the expenses of recruiters looking for more football players.

"When I say that at the bottom line intercollegiate athletics is a business," says Hart, "it bothers a lot of people, particularly in the university community. It doesn't sound romantic or playful, but it's the truth. We're called an associate university activity, which means we're not subsidized for operating expenses and have to pay our own way. The academic critics who say we're too concerned with money and not enough concerned with sport are often the same ones who are most strongly opposed to using any general funds for sport.

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