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Football: ‘Not as profitable of a venture’

1 February 2014 By Jonathan Munshaw, Editor-in-Chief 14 Comments
Illustration by Sydney Adamson/ The Towerlight - Illustration by Sydney Adamson/ The Towerlight

Illustration by Sydney Adamson/ The Towerlight

Four years ago, when the Towson football team won just one game all season and went 0-8 in the Colonial Athletic Association, the University would have traded anything for a few more wins.

Now that they have finished a season with 13 wins and a trip to the FCS National Championship game, they are realizing the financial cost of picking up those wins.

Most college football fans assume that the farther their team makes it in the season, the more money they’ll make. But for both FBS and FCS schools, making a playoff run or a trip to a bowl game, it’s usually about losing money. Between trips to Eastern Illinois and Eastern Washington for playoff games and to Frisco, Texas. for the National Championship game, Towson lost $50,000, according to Director of Athletics Tim Leonard.

And that’s before factoring in how much money the University spent on hosting Towson’s home playoff game against Fordham.

“It’s a very expensive proposition at this level. Fewer people are putting in bids to host [playoff games],” Leonard said.

Towson was required to host the Fordham game because they were seeded in the playoff bracket, while Fordham was not. However, if Towson had missed out on getting seeded in the playoffs, Leonard said the
department had already decided to decline to host the playoff game.

“The NCAA doesn’t necessarily reimburse you for hosting,” Leonard said. “Traveling was probably cheaper than if we would have hosted all the way through.”

Most colleges, according to Senior Associate Director of Athletics Roy Brown, don’t budget for the postseason in the FBS or FCS.

Even when traveling, Towson struggled to just break even. For the National Championship game, the University went above the allotted amount given to it by the NCAA to travel.

The lump sum given by the NCAA to schools traveling for playoff games only covers about 70 players and the team’s coaches, plus the hotel, food and travel to and from the stadium, according to Leonard. But
Towson ended up bringing more people along on the trip.

“There were things we added to the experience to make sure all of our kids, the football student athletes, all of them went…we brought anyone else who was hurt. If they were part of the team, we were taking
them,” Leonard said. “The coaches’ families were there. We wanted to make sure anyone who deserved to be there was there.”

As part of making it farther into the playoffs, Leonard said the University did generate about $150,000 in pledges from alumni, and expects fundraising to grow at the University each year as the football team
and the other programs improve.

Besides travel, the Athletics Department’s budget will be stretched thin if other teams want to find similar success to the football team.

“Once you start making that commitment to winning, you can never stand still. We can’t just say the winning will take care of itself now. Every other team who didn’t get as far as us now, they are wondering
what they can do better now to get better than Towson. We want to put more money into recruiting. We want to put more money into our football operations. We want to put more money into the way we
travel…,” Leonard said.

Football Head Coach Rob Ambrose also received an extension after the National Championship trip. Ambrose has yet to officially sign a contract, so there is no official word on whether or not he will receive a
raise, according to Brown. Under his previous contract, Ambrose was making $250,000 a year, according to The Baltimore Sun’s database of state employees’ salaries. However, it is widely speculated that
Ambrose will receive a raise.

Basketball Head Coach Pat Skerry also makes $275,000 a year, according to the database. As both those teams continue to excel, the coaches may be asking for extensions, or more money. Requests that need to
be met if Towson wants to keep their coaches from defecting to bigger colleges.

Spending money on the success of programs can add stress to the supporting staff in the Athletics Department, which is something every college struggles with, Leonard said.

Over winter break, Towson made at least four layoffs, and the employees were told that the moves were strictly budgetary. One of the laid off employees, Deanna Terelle, said the staff changes in Athletics
weren’t performance-based firings.

“They simply made a move that was in the best interest of the University and sadly that meant that positions had to be cut,” Terelle said in a Facebook message. “I was sadly one of the unlucky ones and it is
unfortunate, however I want Towson to be successful and especially to continue growing the athletics department.”

This is all part of the “juggling act,” Leonard said, that all colleges suffer from.

According to the NCAA’s report on Revenues and Expenses, which was last published in 2012 and covers the years 2004 – 2011, most FCS schools made little to no money on athletics in fiscal year 2011.

The report states that the median revenue for FCS schools for all sports was $13,425,000 while the median expenses for all sports were $13,218,000.

The total median revenue includes earnings from the athletics department, direct institutional support, indirect institutional support, student fees and governmental support.

But Leonard hopes that in the coming years, his department won’t have to depemd on the University to be sustainable.

“I don’t want to be as reliant on big brother . . . We have to be more dependent on ourselves and develop our own revenue,” he said. “We want to have a big annual campaign to raise money before the end of the
fiscal year. We’ve got to have more sales in sponsorship sales, and we have to have substantial growth in our ticket sales.”

And despite the proposal to increase student fees, including the athletics fee, at the end of last semester by the University, Leonard said he didn’t ask for the increase.

“We are not going and asking for a 10 percent increase in student fees for our budget,” he said. “I don’t think the president would support that right now. I don’t think the climate is right for that right now. I
think what we need to do is prove that we can generate more revenue first.”

Even for FBS schools, playing in the postseason can be financially difficult. Leonard’s former school, the University of Central Florida, traveled to the Fiesta Bowl this season and defeated Baylor. However,
Leonard said UCF lost almost $2 million on the trip because the NCAA forces schools to pay for an allotment of tickets, and the school had to pay for the leftover tickets they weren’t able to sell.

“For FCS, the NCAA puts on the game, but in FBS, the bowl games [pay for the expenses],” Leonard said. “Either way, it’s not as profitable of a venture as people think it is.”


  • STEPHAN said:

    Dear Jonathan,

    Thank you for presenting this important information. While it’s not great news, it’s important to know how much it costs your team to win on your behalf. I was really excited when Towson got to the NCAA Championships. It’s a bummer that the cost of transportation and selling tickets is such a financial burden for the team and university. I hope that this does not discourage Towson from reaching their goals of getting into the Championships again.


  • Eric said:

    This years football team played their hearts out and exceeded all expectations. The $$$ in college athletics and even more at Towson will always be a problem. Alumni and the local community are going to have to support this athletic department by going to games, donating to the athletic department, and helping create a buzz and help get more people to follow and support this schools athletics in order for this school to continue to succeed and grow.

  • Tony Towson said:

    Great article! As a member of the university community, I applaud the openness of the current athletic director. This article would never have been published while the last clown was AD.

  • Towson2006 said:

    Gee, maybe if we did not have this financial disaster of a football program we could still afford a soccer program? Funny that Leonard says he did not ask for the increase in student fees, but he did not say he would not take the money to balance the overspending of the football program taking every member of the administrative staff to Texas when none had working roles. Paid vacations. The more things change, the more they stay the same. This whole article is PR spin trying to make the case that if we only moved Football up to FBS that we’d be better off. Ridiculous. I want to see the Towerlight publish the terms of the new 6 year contract for Rob Ambrose, which is being paid for by the jobs of 4 now former employees. Shameful.

  • Live4TU said:

    Towson2006 – You are an asshat. You know nothing about college athletics or budgeting. If that piece of garbage Waddle would have kept some money in reserve, we would be ok.

  • BobcatBob said:

    I was told there is a big chunk of restricted money set aside for facility development, more than $200,000. But since it’s restricted it can only be used for facilities and upgrades on the physical plant.

  • Towson2006 said:

    But then again if you believe the line of reasoning from the former AD, current AD and the past and present President the only reason that these teams are winning is because more money is being spent on football, basketball and lacrosse. If we would have just stayed with the same budget spending that was present in 2009-10 we would have had the same success levels as we have had. Investing in the new trainers, weight coaches, academic tutors, along with paying the football, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, men’s basketball and women’s basketball coaches more money like the former AD did had little if any impact on the actual winning and losing.

    The fact is that thanks to the new AD the head football coach now makes more on an annual basis than the combined salaries of the head coaches in baseball, track, men’s golf, women’s golf, women’s tennis, softball, volleyball, and field hockey you have a system that is completely run amuck. What should be done by the new AD is investing in better wages for the baseball, track, men’s golf, women’s golf, women’s tennis, softball, volleyball, and field hockey coaches who coach the majority of the student-athletes.

    Oh yeah, and still, no new softball field has been built but we are all told that we had to have that to be Title IX compliant. Where did that 2 million bucks end up? The President has not put out any new information on Title IX in the last 9 months so maybe, just maybe, there was no issue that needed to be dealt with to begin with.

    Where is the money going to come from in 2015-16 to fund baseball when the $300,000 per year runs out from the O’Malley Fund? The $200,000 that has been raised so far by the Baseball supporters only helps cover the budget this year and next and gets access to the annual blast of $300,000 in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Come 2015-16 there is a big bill due that the dollars used to pay the football coach more could have helped.

  • PaperTiger said:

    2006 could not be further from reality in that the only reason why Towson Football is winning now on a consistent clip is because of the investment made back into the program starting in the 2010 off season and leading into 2011. Same for basketball and the winning that came after investing in the great staff and support that is present now as opposed to the Pats Cats years. But of course you would probably rather kept paying the lowest salaries in the CAA and seen the old mentality of being the losingest athletic program in the CAA across the board stay in place.

  • ConcernedFaculty said:

    $50,000 here, $250,000 there, a million on either side of the ledger, who cares? Obviously President Loeschke does not. While faculty salaries at Towson University fall further behind our President, an alumna and supposed academic, chases the false hopes of sporting glory while our academic leaders pay the price.

    When Loeschke was announced as the new President in Autumn 2011 I was encouraged that she would deliver on the promises that she made to us during our first meeting. As the time has passed her lack of leadership regarding the allocation of funds for salary adjustments when they have become available has been most disappointing. Today, Just as an example, someone promoted to full professor in my department could quite well be making more than I do next year, and I’ve been a full professor since 1996. Salary inversion is just an extension of salary compression that we’ve been complaining about for years, and nothing ever changes regarding the stance of the higher administration in terms of dealing with this issue. Unfortunately, the level of discourse has taken a major step backwards under Loeschke as her empty promises and disingenious, empty suit chief of staff, make the entire situation embarassing.

    So, keep chasing the fleeting athletic success while spreading the wealth not to the academic mission, but to extracurricular pursuits. It’s a sad day to be a member of this faculty.

  • TJ4TUAD said:

    Towson Soccer should never had been cut. We saved Baseball and now need to right the sham of all time in Towson Sports and bring back soccer. We are making lots of money with the success of the football season and owe it to the alumni and current students who played soccer to make this team a part of the family once again. If it takes Ambrose and Skerry and some of the other coaches taking a pay cut to help bring back these teams I am sure that they would do it because they are team players and love Towson.

    Bring back soccer.

  • bibby said:

    Let’s go D3. Or D2. Then we can dump all this athletic nonsense since no one cares and most of the teams suck. And then we can build a parking garage, fix the buildings, and get a decent food service contract.

  • TJ4TUAD said:

    bibby is a asshat. College is about sports, but sports for all people. Why the men at this school cannot play soccer any more is just un-American.

  • arch said:

    I am a TAF donor and can say that yes, the football team’s season and associated travel did finish at a net financial loss, but what a ride it was. You have to be willing to pay to play and this is the challenge in front of Towson moving forward. If you want to play with the big boys you have to be willing to take a little risk. There is nothing that Towson University could do outside of athletics that would equal the PR of a quality athletics program, especially winning at football and basketball. More people know about Towson because of playing in the national title game this year and playing LSU & being on 60 Minutes last year than they do anything that has been accomplished academically over the history of the university. Some people may not appreciate that fact, but it is true. Towson is not a research 1 university and it’s academics are middle of the road at best. The school can make a name for itself by investing in athletics as that will raise the profile more than any other endeavor.

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