Money Making Idea For UNC

Even though the UNC Athletics Department is not bad off as most schools, there is no doubt that rising tuition costs have and will continue to make financial solvency a more elusive goal. There is evidence of new life in the Rams Club regarding membership and membership usually converts into financial support at some point. This is encouraging, but the athletics department had better brace themselves for what will likely happen when UNC's predominantly female student body reaches contributing age. Research has shown that females tend to make contributions to charities rather than schools they attended and UNC currently has the largest percentage of females students of any major university in the country. Connect the dots.

Many things have changed regarding collegiate athletics in the past few years. In addition to rising tuition costs, Title 9 has put additional pressure on athletic Department budgets nationwide. It is not a well known fact, but most college athletic departments operate in the red. This has special meaning for state supported schools because we all know that athletics departments are not going to be allowed to default on their debts. Guess where the money comes from when there is no money in the athletics department treasury. Funds are transferred from University accounts to cover athletic department debts so it's plain to see that tax payers may be the provider of last resort in such situations.

I read on a message board recently about a concession stand at a small college realizing a $3000 profit from sales at their spring football game. I don't know what the attendance was, but considering the small size of the school and location, I thought a $3000 profit was quite extraordinary. It was not a big time football school. The money was turned over to the athletics department according to the poster.

This got me to thinking about how UNC could produce more revenue in ways other than to solicit gifts, raise ticket prices or on the other side of the ledger, reduce expenses which would undoubtedly mean fielding less than the 28 varsity teams UNC currently has, the largest number in the ACC.

I remember as a child visiting one of my playmate's basement where there were large stacks of college football programs. We used to look through them because, at the time, none of us had ever been to a college football game and looking at the photographs of the players decked out in their uniforms and engaging in all kinds of physical activities (usually without their helmets), it was a world we had never experienced, and it was exciting. I never understood why the programs were there, but I learned later that the father of my playmate saved the programs from every college football game he had attended. I'm sure at first the programs were upstairs, but as the pile grew it probably became necessary to move them to the basement. Man, if those programs were available today, the owner could sell them at a premium.

I'm slowly getting around to my money making idea. I noticed in one of the programs that Duke played Randolph-Macon in a football game. Upon closer examination, I learned that the game was played in the spring, not in the fall. Now are you starting to track me and my idea?

I know there will be those who think enough football games are currently being played with additions being made on both ends of the schedule. Special exemption games to begin the season like the Black Coaches Association and bowl games at the conclusion of the season which currently involves an all time high number of schools. Here comes the idea. Why not play a single game against another school to conclude spring football? It could be handled the same as regular season games in areas such as admission, concession operations, publicity etc. In addition, it would get alums and other fans back to the campus for an additional visit and let's face it. That is the strongest reason for schools to have strong athletic teams whether the school's administration will admit it or not. Without athletics, there is a good possibility that most alums would not revisit the school at all. Special entertainment could make the spring game a big event and keep the flame burning for fans as far as continued interest in football for the fall. Ticket sales could take place at the stadium for regular season games in the fall which wouldn't hurt. School children could be admitted at a lower cost or even admitted free. The larger the crowd, the more interest will be generated among the football prospects who usually attend the intra-squad game currently being held as well as non-football playing prospects. The academic people could tell the UNC story which needs to be told. I was shocked recently to learn that many N.C. students don't bother to apply at UNC because they think it is so expensive. With the new policy on student aid, this would be a good time to tell that story.

Now for the negatives. Obviously, the game could not be played without NCAA approval, so maybe it's not strictly a UNC question but more of an NCAA issue. All schools with football teams could consider playing a spring game. That shouldn't stop consideration if it is decided the idea is a good one. Games could be scheduled in pairs. One home and one away. Opponents could be limited to out of conference teams since coaches and other officials would be nervous about the possible effects of a bad conference loss in the game and the effects it would have on enthusiasm for the ensuing season. A loss by a wide margin would have a disastrous effect on fan morale but if the team is not very good, it is not going to take very long in the regular season for the world to know. We might as well go ahead and find out what kind of team we have. You could limit play by the starters and have 2nd and 3rd teams play against each other to reduce the risk of major injuries. If the idea is sound, there are many things that could be done to eliminate the negative considerations.

Now, do I think there is any possibility that my idea will be seriously looked at by anybody? Certainly not. Having worked in university administrations for a significant portion of my career, I would expect colleges and universities to continue to muddle along until the wheels start coming off the wagon. It's already happening at some schools where varsity sports are being reduced to balance budgets and meet other legal requirements. So don't hold your breath until you hear that UNC will be playing Tennessee or some other high profile team in Kenan Stadium on a beautiful spring day some time in the near future. The lack of oxygen may produce a life threatening situation.