At the University of Nebraska, football is big business. The revenues of the football program are necessary for the athletic department to remain fully self sustainable. Because believe it or not, the women’s air rifle team is not the cash cow we all hoped it would be, and that’s ok. For instance, Nebraska’s non profit generating athletic programs lost a combined 17 million in 2016. That is a whole lot of red and not the good kind. Luckily, the university has Husker football to hedge the net loss that these programs produce. Also, it is worth noting that football profits will be even higher this season (approx 40 million) now that the university is fully vested into that Big Ten Network money.
I felt it was important to preface the meat of this blog with that fiscal tid-bit so that we are all fully aware of the financial landscape of the athletic program. Surprisingly, there is still a decent portion of people who think that the athletic department utilizes money from the University which is publicly funded in order to operate.
On September 2nd, Nebraska will square off against Arkansas State in the majestic Memorial Stadium Castle. The Huskers should defeat their home opener opponent in decisive fashion. So why would Arkansas State start their season off with a thrashing from the Huskers? Seems like a pretty deflating way to start your 12 game season no? Well I know our readers are pretty bright. Plus, there is a man wearing a Pikachu shirt making it rain just above this text. So yes, the answer is money.
Now it is no secret that Nebraska pays early season non conference opponents to play in Lincoln. Truth is, it is a very sound financial decision for programs like Arkansas State. Who will be raking in a cool 1.65 million for just showing up on gameday.
Similar to Nebraska, football programs like Arkansas State need money to keep their athletic departments afloat. In Arkansas State’s situation, their athletic program balance sheet is exactly break-even so this revenue is crucial. It also gives them great exposure and the opportunity to recruit within our state. A kid that might not be able to make the cut in Lincoln might be intrigued by the opportunity to be on the opposing sideline in front of their friends and family in Lincoln.
The more interesting question is what does Nebraska gain from this? First, and most obvious, it is an easy brush up game before they get into the more competitive part of the season. Secondly, all division one teams are required to play a twelve game schedule. With eight games slated for conference play, the four game void must be filled. Oddly enough, this creates a bidding war among power five programs to find teams like Arkansas State to fill those empty slots. Lastly, it is important to remember that although the athletic program is pumping major coin to field an opponent, they are still generating revenue.
An easier way to think of it is like Pinnacle Bank Arena scheduling talent to perform in order to produce profits. Imagine Arkansas State is Justin Bieber and Memorial Stadium is the venue. The program will generate revenue from ticket sales, concessions and terrible concert T-shirts.
As you can see, this relationship between the two universities is symbiotic. Both programs find a fair market price for the game to take place and both walk away happy. Hopefully Husker fans will be walking away in good spirits after the game on September 2nd. However, there is always a chance for a small program to upset a power five school. It most certainly has been done before, a la Appalachian State upsetting Michigan in front of 100,000 plus in the Big House.