With sports executives across the four major professional leagues strategizing return-to-play scenarios, the NCAA faces unique challenges of its own. One question lingers above all others: what will the NCAA do about football?
From the FBS to FCS, and all across Division-I, football continues to be the primary revenue driver for athletics programs across the country.
The fact of the matter is, football drives a disproportionate amount of revenue — money that supports sports teams across each school.
And surprise, surprise, W&M football’s revenue is at-risk. In other news, water is wet. But let’s dig deeper.
According to the Virginia Gazette, W&M football generated a whopping $5.413 million in revenue during the 2018-2019 school year — nearly 20% of W&M Athletics’ entire operating budget ($29.31M in 2018).
That revenue number probably comes as a surprise for many of you — but we assure you, it’s real.
Despite the program’s “small” scope relative to in-state comrades UVA and Virginia Tech, $5 million is still a lot of money.
For comparison’s sake, below are a few other football programs’ revenue numbers:
- Virginia Tech: $57.6M
- Virginia: $32.55M
- JMU: $6.94M
Really, the only school that’s fair to compare W&M against is JMU — a fellow CAA “mid-major” — but one that is largely known as a sports powerhouse, especially in FCS football.
Lo and behold, W&M does not trail JMU by much in terms of football revenue — at least not in 2018, two years after the Dukes claimed a National Championship.
But with these numbers in mind, we beg the question: if students aren’t allowed on campus this Fall, will NCAA football even occur this season?
And if it does, what will it look like for athletes in the world of COVID-19? What changes, if any, should fans expect?
We endeavored to find out.
TRAVELS TRENDS LIKELY CHANGING ACROSS COLLEGE SPORTS
(via Michael Smith, Sports Business Journal)
- Every athletic department in the country is evaluating its cost-cutting options and many of them start with travel. I asked John Anthony, founder & CEO of Anthony Travel, which manages travel for close to 90 schools, what trends he’s seeing.
- Across college athletics:
- Reduced travel parties across all sports.
- More regional competition for non-conference games, especially in Olympic sports. (WMSB Take: expect far more games against in-state local schools…we consider this a benefit)
- Negotiating out of longer trips for this upcoming season and pushing back a season or two. (WMSB Take: would W&M football still play @ Stanford on 9/5?)
- More teams traveling by bus over commercial or charter air. Schools are looking at a threshold of 400 miles to dictate travel by ground or flight, similar to the policy employed by the NCAA for tournament travel. (WMSB Take: thankfully, the CAA isn’t too geographically dispersed…ODU’s conference will have major issues on this front)
- Elimination of football teams staying in a hotel the night before a home game. (WMSB Take: i.e. more nights in their dorms for W&M football players prior to home games)
- Travel out and back the same day for day games. (WMSB Take: scheduling local competition would make this doable)
- Hotel trends:
- Some schools are not signing hotel contracts until July.
- Some schools are lowering their cap on hotel rates.
- Breakfast: hotels may not be allowed to serve a public buffet upon reopening, depending on local health policies. (WMSB Take: God help Sadler and the “Caf” upon reopening…)
- Schools are asking how social distancing, cleaning and group numbers impact check-in and elevators.
- Air travel trends:
- Charter air is still the choice for basketball and football programs, but there is a deeper review of charter options vs. staying with the same carrier they have used year after year.
- Olympic sports are evaluating where they typically will charter and considering commercial air costs.
- Anthony: “We don’t necessarily see P5 football programs flying commercial, but potentially more teams would bus.” For a typical away game that’s a 4-5 hour drive, programs could save approximately $100,000 if they bus versus taking a charter flight.
In all, it would be a grind for football players on campus this Fall.
The most notable change being a plethora of virus-related safety procedure implementations, including: strict social distancing measures, constant sterilization, food distribution restrictions, and more.
Cost-cutting measures will also play an outsized role if football returns in the Fall — including greater bus travel, potential schedule changes, and sourcing of local competition, among other major changes.
But we have to ask ourselves: if schools can’t justify hosting any students on campus for classes this Fall, can they really justify bringing football back?
And for smaller, FCS schools such as William & Mary — schools that aren’t tied to massive TV media rights deals (that need to be fulfilled through the playing of games; such are the requirements of the Power 5 Conferences) — is it even worth it?
One thing is for certain: if football does not occur this season, W&M, and college athletics programs across the country, face massive revenue losses.
And in W&M Athletics’ case, that number can creep up to as much as 18% of its total operating budget.