Economics big part of Furman-Missouri football game

Thursday, September 17, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 2:30 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 17, 2009

The recession has hit Furman University.

The Paladins make it an almost annual tradition to play a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) team, a difficult undertaking for the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) team. This season, Furman is playing two such games. It is set to play Nov. 7 at Auburn, and will also play Saturday at Missouri. The reason to add the second game is the $450,000 Furman will receive from Missouri.

“Gifts to the university are down just as they are across the country,” Gary Clark, Furman's director of athletics said by phone. “Bills are up. Expenses are up, revenues are down, in general, yes.”

Games of this type against higher division opponents are what some call “guarantee” games, because they guarantee revenue for the away team. This is because the traveling school collects a check for playing the game from the home school, rather than taking a home game against the opponent in a later season in return.

Memorial Stadium has more than three times the seating capacity of Furman’s Paladin Stadium. Because Missouri generates so much more revenue from a home game, it can afford to pay Furman more money than Furman would receive from a home game of its own.

This weekend, Furman was scheduled to play at Delaware, like Furman, a Football Championship Subdivision school. Furman backed out of that game to play at Missouri instead. Missouri needed to fill the slot after SMU backed out of a game planned for Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Guarantee games are a common practice in college football. They allow the home team to schedule another home game in the future rather than be locked into an away game at the opponent’s stadium. This allows the school to collect the revenue of another home game. The away team receives more than it would receive for a home game, so it is happy as well.

This week, in Furman’s Southern Conference alone, there are two other guarantee games. Wofford is playing at Wisconsin and Elon is playing at Wake Forest.

Clark declined to discuss specifics about the money Furman is receiving, citing the school's status as a private institution. He did confirm Furman will make more money this weekend than if it played a home game. Clark also said the money is not going to any specific project, just to the university's general budget. Some of the money won't make it back to Furman, instead going to the travel costs associated with the game.

Furman has 2,601 undergraduates. It is unlike larger, public universities in that it does not have an athletic budget, per se. Instead, the university maintains a general budget and allocates from that budget to fund athletics. Any athletic revenues, including the money from playing Missouri, go back into that general budget. For that reason, multiple offices of the university were involved in the decision to play Missouri.

“It was a joint decision between the coach, the athletic administration and our general university administration,” Clark said.

For Furman, Saturday’s game represents an opportunity to play on a bigger stage.

“You get these shots once a year and unfortunately, we've got two shots this year,” coach Bobby Lamb said.


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