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October 03, 2004

Non Sell Outs Hurt Big D1 Football Programs

FROM THE ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENTS of some beleaguered D-1A schools come troubling news about slipping profitability for their football programs. Syracuse University and the University of North Carolina have suffered attendance lags over the past few seasons, and are struggling to right their respective ships.

The UNC Tar Heels, accustomed to selling out their 60,000-seat Kenan Stadium, have not had a sell out since their opening game in 2003.

Consider the following:

• The Tar Heels were an unimpressive 2-10 in 2003.

• In 2003, 18,464 tickets went unsold over six games—worth over $530,000.

• UNC made $6.1 million from ticket revenue in 2003.

• This year, 19,233 tickets are unsold—worth over $540,000.

The pressure is most definitely on Tar Heels coach John Bunting to improve his team’s performance substantially. Thus would come more fans to the games. However, a 37-0 pasting at Kenan Stadium last week to Louisville bodes not well for UNC’s chances to recoup lost revenues.

More later . . . .

Meanwhile, in upstate New York, fans have been staying away in droves for the Syracuse University Orange (formerly Orangemen) football team.

Consider the following:

• This year only 32,893 tickets were sold or distributed for SU’s victory over Cincinnati at the Carrier Dome.

• The last time SU played Cincinnati at home (in 1998) the attendance was 47,251.

• The difference of 14,358 fans at an average ticket price of $26.25 means that SU took a hit of $376,898.

• The total athletic department budget is $22 million.

• Football generates by far the bulk of revenues for SU, and ticket sales comprise 60% of the total.

As is always the case for a program’s financial success, a winning team is a requisite starting point. And Syracuse, with a storied football legacy—Ernie Davis, Floyd Little anyone?—from years past, has struggled of late. Their record over the past two seasons has been 10-14.

In addition to a sub-par team, Syracuse is suffering from the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech from its schedule. Also, season-ticket prices were raised by 21%.

Large revenue shortfalls have afflicted dozens of football programs at the bottom half of the food chain. The yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots appears to be an inescapable byproduct of the arms race.

More later . . . .

(this 389 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary—was distilled from an 863 word article in the Syracuse Post-Standard of 9-29-04 and an 1035 word article from the Raleigh News Observer of 9-29-04)