Wheels at OSU Turning on Decisions for the Future, Just Don't Know How Fast
STILLWATER -- Several sources have told me there is a meeting on Monday with the decision makers at Oklahoma State. Part of the discussion is supposed to be about athletics, football in particular. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has come out and said it, football needs to happen. The difference right now between the rich and opulent athletic departments in the Big 12 like Texas and Oklahoma; the middle class of TCU, Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor, and Oklahoma State; or the bottom three spenders in Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Iowa State is little. To be fair, some of that has likely juggled in the last full school year and three-quarters. Iowa State is definitely up. All of the 10 schools in the Big 12 need football to survive. Football is at least 50 percent of the revenue for all of the Big 12 schools.
Big 12 Conference Athletic Budgets (based on U.S. Dept. of Education for 2017-18 school year)
1. Texas: $184,373,919
2. Oklahoma: $157,594,460
3. TCU: $115,240,541
4. Kansas: $111,603,499
5. West Virginia: $98,851,233
6. Baylor: $95,214,007
7. Oklahoma State: $84,671,698
8. Texas Tech: $77,416,037
9. Kansas State: $76,414,388
10. Iowa State: $71,773,252
Bowlsby was pretty clear in his most recent public comments on football needing to be played and take place in some form or fashion.
"It’s a whole new ballgame if we find ourselves not playing football, because it affects everything we do,” Bowlsby said in his teleconference back on March 26. “It affects the largest portion of our television contracts. It’s the largest section of campus revenue — which is live gate. If that doesn't happen, the underpinning of what we know as normal goes away, and we'll have major changes to make."
While Bowlsby did not even any clear cut answers and remember he spoke with the media about 10 days ago. In this time and with this health crisis that is like three months.
"We’re looking at for a return to activity that’s six or eight weeks,” Bowlsby said looking at it from a class half full perspective. “The month of May typically is a heavy lifting and training month (for football). Then the athletes get some time off, and the coaches have camps and clinics. It may be that we can’t do any of that this year, so what do you do to get ready? I think that’s the part that we’re thinking about, what does that transition look like?”
Oklahoma State athletics director Mike Holder seems to have already thought some about that transition. With a mostly empty campus there is plenty of space to quarantine student-athletes, coaches and football support staff, and further support staff such as the staff that operates the training table.
Holder in his comments on the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association chat on Friday went speculative on football existing on campus, sequestered and preparing for a season that could include games with or without fans, but a season that starts on time for television. A large amount of the money that football derives for the rest of the athletic department comes from television rights.
"I'm concerned about football," Holder said point blank. "We need to play football this fall and if we don't play football this fall I'm not sure there is an athletic director in America that can put those financial pieces back together and come up with an athletic department."
Holder explained at Oklahoma State the athletic department budget is right at $85-million and roughly $70-million is derived from the combination of conference payout for football television rights, bowl revenue, and conference championship revenue for the football game. The rest of it, some $37-million is from ticket sales, suites sales, radio rights with Learfield/IMG, and other revenue like concessions, tailgating/parking, and sponsorships.
We adjusted the conference payout total because it also includes money for other conference events like the men's basketball tournament and money the NCAA pays the conference for the Men's Division I Basketball Championship.
Take football away and it doesn't matter if it is Texas with it's 100,000 plus Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium or Oklahoma State with it's 55,509 seat Boone Pickens Stadium plus no television dollars they are both going to not just struggle, but won't be able to make ends meet financially.
"To play football, in my mind, this fall we have to be able to test our athletes, coaches, support personnel and know we have a safe group of people that are associating with one another," Holder said realizing that is doable.
His head coach Mike Gundy also has said he believes that can happen. Even if society is not to a point where people are comfortable or it is safe to be together in large groups, the schools could still reap the television money for college football which is extensive.
"If we can get to that test then we can quarantine ourselves on campus and get ready to play the football season," Holder continued. "Everyone needs to start thinking and talking about playing football in September like it is scheduled right now. I don't think delays are the solution. Everything is predicated on the virus and our economy and getting our country back to work."
Some of this could come under the heading of morale. At some point if there are not some signs and progress, at least perceived progress of getting back to some kind of normalcy then you can see society sink even further.
Football, both college and the NFL, have huge followings that would love the symbol of seeing games.
Monday is a meeting, lots of things will be discussed. I'm not sure how comfortable the decision makers are at Oklahoma State to plot a course, but the discussion phase is overdue. It needs to be discussed and thought through. That action has to take place just to plant a seed, do further investigation. Be ready to act if the opportunity is there and presents itself.
A sports psychologist once told me the easiest way to get something done is to envision it first. Our society needs rules and strict, hard action to fight the coronavirus pandemic, but also some vision to put our society and country back in gear as soon as it can be.