SBJ/August 20-26, 2012/In Depth

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  • College football's playmakers

    College football is a commissioner- and TV-driven property, and recent years have made that message clear. The headlines have been dominated by massive conference realignment, through-the-roof media rights deals, and the landmark move to a four-team playoff starting with the 2014 season. Conference commissioners and network executives have been at the forefront of all of those developments, which is evidenced in this list of the most influential figures in college football.

    No. 1
    Mike Slive
    SEC commissioner

    For four hours on a warm spring day in 2008, Slive stood before a group of BCS officials espousing the benefits of the “plus-one model,” a college football playoff that would put four teams in a championship bracket and let them play their way to No. 1. When the meetings concluded that day in Hollywood, Fla., only the ACC had expressed even a mild interest in the playoff, while the rest shot it down. They didn’t even bother to take a formal vote.

    If the ultimate test of influence is getting everyone else to do what you want them to do, Slive is clearly the most influential figure in college football today. A little more than four years after he presented that initial playoff proposal, it came to pass this year. The format, which goes into effect for the 2014 season, looks very much like the model that Slive first presented, with two semifinal games being played in bowl venues, followed by a national championship game a week later.

    Photo by: AP Images
    College football finally has a playoff, and it largely has Mike Slive to thank for it.

    “He deserves all of the credit,” said Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs. “It’s basically [the same proposal] we had four years ago and everybody is just now catching up.”

    Slive ended up getting everything he wanted. As other conferences lobbied to include only conference champions in the playoff, Slive, backed by the Big 12, lobbied hard for simply the four best teams. Again, others ultimately agreed with his logic.

    In the midst of the playoff talks this spring, Slive worked with the Big 12 to create the Champions Bowl, “a shot across the bow at the Big Ten and the Pac-12,” one industry executive said of the upstart bowl, which will take on the storied Rose Bowl for the best show on New Year’s Day.

    “Mike has led the charge to the playoff since 2008,” Florida President Bernie Machen said. “As a result, the financial return is going to be huge. Mike clearly is the lead negotiator for our conference, and really, for all of college sports.”


    See how others stack up:


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  • Most Influential: College Football 2-5

    No. 2
    Jim Delany
    Big Ten commissioner

    If the SEC’s Mike Slive got everything he wanted in the new playoff format, it was only because Jim Delany allowed it. Delany for many years was considered the roadblock that stood between college football and a playoff. He staunchly stood up for the bowl system, especially his conference’s traditional tie to the Rose Bowl. Only when he relented did a playoff become a reality.

    “He’s tough, and he doesn’t mince words. And he has earned the right to speak,” Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman

    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    said of Delany. “For the record, I was not an advocate for a playoff. But I saw reality and what was going to happen,” and so did Delany.

    Not that Delany was a loser in the playoff talks. He maintained the Rose Bowl connection with the Pac-12 and, in the playoff scenario, he was a strong voice in favor of having an NCAA-like committee select the four best teams. He wanted “the eye test” that only a selection committee can offer.

    While it took time for Delany to shift positions to favor a playoff, he has been much more of a leader than a follower in just about every other regard. The conference’s launch of the Big Ten Network in 2007 was a game-changer in every sense. It also was Delany’s look into conference expansion in December 2009 that triggered an almost chaotic conference realignment, with everyone reacting to the Big Ten.

    “He’s the leader in his field,” said Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith. “His influence is significant because his understanding of college sports, particularly college football, is so good. He’s always ahead of the curve, always looking down the road, and that’s why he usually knows what’s coming before anyone else.”



    No. 3
    John Skipper
    President, ESPN

    Burke Magnus
    Senior VP, college programming, ESPN

    John Skipper
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyhler
    Burke Magnus
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    When ESPN decided to pay $80 million a year for the Rose Bowl, it was clear that the network considered the college football postseason important. When it followed up that deal with another $80 million-a-year deal for the two-month-old Champions Bowl, it was clear that ESPN wanted to own the college football postseason. Fox still is expected to bid on the BCS games, but ESPN is the clear favorite to land them.

    With Skipper’s direction and Magnus’ deal-making, ESPN has become the home for college football. It holds more media rights than any other media outlet, including deals with the top conferences. It has deals with the University of Texas for the Longhorn Network and has been kicking the tires with the SEC on a conference channel. It also has more outlets to carry programming than other media companies, including a dedicated college sports channel (ESPNU), a broadband site (ESPN3) and a mobile application (WatchESPN).

    ESPN denies criticism that it was the driving force behind conference realignment, which created upheaval in college sports the past two years. But the mere fact that industry veterans believe ESPN has that kind of power underscores the influence it has in the college sports landscape.



    No. 4
    Mark Emmert
    NCAA president

    Emmert doesn’t consult with conference commissioners on which teams they should invite, he doesn’t negotiate TV
    Photo by: Getty Images
    deals and he had no say in the new college football playoff system. Throughout much of the past two years, it would be easy to conclude that Emmert has little to no influence in college football. That changed, however, on July 23, when Emmert announced some of the harshest penalties ever levied against a school. Penn State faces scholarship limitations, recruiting restrictions and a $60 million fine in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. While industry observers and athletic directors debate whether Emmert overstepped his bounds with the penalties, the sanctions delivered a stern warning: Cheaters and bad actors will be dealt with swiftly and severely under his watch.

    In the days after the penalties were announced, Emmert was called the NCAA’s new disciplinary czar and some compared him to the kind of commissioner that pro leagues have. “You’re going to see an NCAA president who is more empowered than any of the presidents before him,” an industry source said. “He’s going to be a major force.”



    No. 5
    Larry Scott
    Pac-12 commissioner

    Photo by: Pac-12 Conference
    No commissioner has wrought more change in the last few years than the Pac-12’s Scott. Just last week, six new conference regional networks and a national network launched for a conference that only five years ago was an afterthought on the national scene. Scott’s three-year tenure has seen the Pac-12 add Colorado and Utah, create a conference championship game, negotiate a record-breaking TV deal with ESPN and Fox, start networks and launch a plan to expand the Pac-12 brand into Asia. Everyone, whether they work in college football or not, is watching to see what Scott is going to do next.

    Not everything has been golden out west. Scott was the last man standing among the commissioners, curiously favoring a “plus-one model” over the four-team playoff that won out. And his bids to expand with Texas and Oklahoma didn’t pan out. But as the Pac-12 moves into a new era with TV networks, a mega-rich media contract and a renewed cool factor, such setbacks are getting harder and harder to remember.

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  • Most Influential: College Football, 6-10

    No. 6
    Presidents of the BCS

    Charles Steger
    Photo by: Jim Stroup
    Bernie Machen
    Photo by: UF Communications
    Harvey Perlman
    Photo by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    Bill Powers
    Photo by: Getty Images













    The role of university presidents is often difficult to understand in sports, especially when it seems that athletic directors and conference commissioners do so much of the heavy lifting. But there’s one place where the presidents’ influence is easy to define — the bottom line. Nothing gets passed, not even a college football playoff, without the approval of the presidents. The BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, whose chairman is Virginia Tech’s Charles Steger, ultimately says yea or nay to anything the commissioners put before it. Now, it can be argued that this is more of a rubber stamp because the presidents aren’t really going to vote down a playoff after the commissioners have put so much planning into it, are they? Of course not. But there are presidents and chancellors on this committee — namely Florida’s Bernie Machen, Nebraska’s Harvey Perlman and Texas’ Bill Powers — who stay highly engaged in college football and wield strong influence as decision-makers. They know what’s going on, and they have the authority to change it if they choose.



    No. 7
    John Swofford
    ACC commissioner

    Until the ACC starts playing better football, Swofford’s moves to expand and improve the conference won’t resonate
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    around the country. Swofford has used his influence to expand to 14 teams and maintain a place among college football’s top five conferences. However, the league will need a Virginia Tech, a Florida State, or an upstart to make noise nationally in high-profile games if it intends to become more relevant on the national stage. Despite the issues on the field, Swofford used expansion to negotiate a new long-term deal with ESPN, an agreement that was triggered by the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse. He was ahead of the curve in 2008 when he worked with Mike Slive and the SEC on an early version of a playoff plan, and was the first commissioner to recommend that the BCS hire an executive director.



    No. 8
    Phil Knight
    Co-founder and chairman, Nike

    Photo by: Getty Images
    Nike’s reach in college football extends from the playing field, where it outfits teams in the trendiest colors and materials of the day, to the budget, where it pays schools and coaches millions so they can call themselves “a Nike school.” Knight has been there from the start and remains actively engaged with the product and its clients. His desire more than 15 years ago to remake the brand of his alma mater, Oregon, led to a national trend in colorful uniforms that now affects recruiting and merchandise sales. Knight also represents the “active” alumni, playing a powerful role in the makeup, direction and culture of Oregon’s athletic department. Few have as much say over a big program as Knight does. Perhaps the greatest compliment is that other uniform makers now follow Nike’s lead, again showing Knight’s vision and Nike’s place as the leading equipment brand in college football.



    No. 9
    Bob Bowlsby
    Big 12 commissioner

    Bowlsby has been on the job only two months, but the veteran administrator stepped into the role with a big-time
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    football background from his days as an athletic director at Stanford and Iowa. He already has his plate full as he completes negotiations on a new TV deal with ESPN and Fox, works on a site for the new Champions Bowl, and steps into the final stages of the college football playoff negotiations. Bowlsby will be one of the “Big Five” commissioners, along with the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC, who will help decide how the revenue from a new TV contract will be distributed. Bowlsby said that, until now, he has taken a quiet approach to the playoff negotiations, but that will surely change as he finds his footing as a commissioner. As long as he represents the conference with Texas and Oklahoma, Bowlsby will always have some thunder behind his words.



    No. 10
    Randy Freer
    Co-president, Fox Sports

    Larry Jones
    COO, Fox Sports

    Randy Freer
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    Larry Jones
    Photo by: Fox Sports

















    In 12 months, Freer and Jones have reshaped Fox Sports’ college portfolio. They opened a window on Fox’s broadcast network to show Pac-12 and Big 12 games in prime time this fall. They brought college football back to FX, a national cable platform. Most importantly, Freer and Jones are part of every rights negotiation in the college sports space. What’s next? Fox is expected to make a run at the BCS rights when they go to market this fall, and it will be at the table for Big East rights when those go to market this fall as well.

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  • Most Influential: College Football, 11-15

    No. 11
    Jack Swarbrick
    Athletic director, Notre Dame

    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    He is commissioner in the conference of one. Given Notre Dame’s national and international following, Swarbrick’s sphere of influence is sometimes considered greater than that of an actual commissioner. That might have been the case in the glory days of Irish football, but it’s more difficult to make that case now. Notre Dame doesn’t carry the same cachet on the field or in living rooms, where average TV ratings on NBC dropped to a record low of 1.6 last season. But the bottom line is that every commissioner in the country, whether they’re working on an expansion plan or not, will take a call from Swarbrick. His school might be the last great prize in expansion roulette, and if the Irish ever decide to join a conference in football, they can assuredly pick their new home. No other school can bring the media value that Notre Dame does, and that gives plenty of weight to Swarbrick’s words.



    No. 12
    Ed Ray
    Past chairman, NCAA executive committee

    Lou Anna Simon
    Current chairman, NCAA executive committee

    As NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the staggering penalties against Penn State, Ed Ray stood by his side.
    Lou Anna Simon
    Photo by: Michigan State University
    Ed Ray
    Photo by: Oregon State University
    Until then, most college football fans probably had no idea who Ray was. Ultimately, he was the guy who gave Emmert the authority to serve such harsh penalties. Ray, whose day job is president at Oregon State, acknowledged that the death penalty was a consideration by the fellow presidents and chancellors on the executive committee who consulted with Emmert. The 21-person panel of university CEOs make up the NCAA’s highest-ranking committee, and voted unanimously to approve Emmert’s unprecedented sanctions. On Aug. 1, Ray’s term ended and the role shifted to Lou Anna Simon, president at Michigan State. The NCAA’s influence in football is often limited to things like initial eligibility and academic progress, but the more leash the presidents give Emmert, the greater their voice.



    No. 13
    George Pyne
    President, IMG Sports & Entertainment

    Ben Sutton
    President, IMG College

    George Pyne
    Photo by: Tony Florez Photography
    Ben Sutton
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    Under the guidance of Pyne and Sutton, IMG has blown up the traditional model of the old multimedia rights holder that mostly sold radio advertising. IMG has developed additional lines of business that help schools sell more tickets, more merchandise and more sponsorships. The company’s bold move into the college space five years ago has evolved into relationships with more than 80 colleges across the country, giving IMG the ability to sell national sponsorships that cover nearly all of the top 50 markets. That adds up to new revenue for its client schools.





    No. 14

    Sean McManus
    Chairman, CBS Sports

    David Berson
    Executive VP, CBS Sports; president, CBS Sports Network

    CBS does not have many college football deals, but the one it features on the broadcast network is the biggest, bringing
    David Berson
    Photo by: John P. Filo / CBS
    Sean McManus
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    in huge viewership for the SEC’s Saturday afternoon matchups. CBS has not been active in trying to acquire new rights; McManus’ strategy is mainly to keep the rights it already has. But with CBS Sports Network in the fold, Berson has been active, particularly with shoulder programming, like the “Tim Brando Show,” that focuses heavily on college sports.



    No. 15
    Nick Saban
    Head coach, University of Alabama

    Photo by: Getty Images
    Saban has the college football world by the tail. His program, coming off its BCS national championship victory over LSU, is the most dominant in the nation’s most dominant conference. He recruits better, he schemes better and his teams execute better than anyone else’s. Every other coach in the country is trying to figure out how to be like him. Saban’s influence has lifted the business of Alabama football as well. The Crimson Tide annually ranks second only to Texas in licensed merchandise sales, while Bryant-Denny Stadium continues to grow and improve, which buoys a $100 million athletic department budget. Few would argue with the statement that Alabama has the best bargain in the country with Saban, even at $5.6 million a year.

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  • Most Influential: College Football, 16-20

    No. 16
    DeLoss Dodds
    Athletic director, University of Texas

    Photo by: University of Texas
    The scope of an athletic director’s influence is typically limited to one campus, but that’s not the case with Dodds. He is one of a handful of athletic directors who have the power to drive a discussion, whether it’s related to media (Longhorn Network) or conference realignment (Pac-12, Big 12). There’s a lot of juice in the chair of the Texas AD, and Dodds has put it to good use, whether it was to save a conference or to start a school network.





    No. 17
    The Media Consultants

    Chris Bevilacqua, Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures
    Chuck Gerber, consultant
    Dean Jordan, Wasserman Media Group


    Consummate behind-the-scenes guys, media consultants have become more important as the cost of media rights has
    Dean Jordan
    Photo by: John Sculli / ABImages
    Chuck Gerber
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    Chris Bevilacqua
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    skyrocketed. It’s hard to picture SEC Commissioner Mike Slive without Gerber nearby. When the Pac-12 was cutting its media rights deals, Bevilacqua was always close to Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. In fact, the Big East hired Bevilacqua before they hired a commissioner. Jordan has contacts throughout the college sports landscape, and is a key player in the BCS negotiations that are set to heat up this fall.



    No. 18
    Bob Beaudine
    Eastman & Beaudine

    Dan Parker
    Parker Executive Search

    Bob Beaudine
    Photo by: Eastman & Beaudine
    Dan Parker
    Photo by: Parker Executive Search
    It’s not uncommon for Parker or Beaudine to lead the search for the president, athletic director and football coach, all at the same school. Whenever a job becomes vacant, chances are the leading candidates have already interviewed with search pros like Parker or Beaudine. The growing search business has become fertile ground for highly influential search agents, including others such as Bill Carr, Jed Hughes, Glenn Sugiyama and Todd Turner. More and more, administrators are turning to them to expedite a search and get the job filled.



    No. 19
    Jimmy Sexton
    Agent, CAA Sports

    Sexton represents some of the biggest names in college football coaching. Alabama’s Nick Saban, Florida State’s Jimbo
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    Fisher, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Florida’s Will Muschamp, Southern California’s Lane Kiffin — they are among the hottest and best-paid coaches in the country. That puts Sexton in the position of setting the market for coaches’ salaries every time one of his guys re-ups, and there aren’t many controversies that generate more debate than coaches’ salaries. That puts one of the sport’s greatest lightning-rod issues in Sexton’s hands.




    No. 20
    Kevin Plank
    Founder, CEO, Under Armour

    Photo by: Greg Fuime / UMD Athletics
    Love Maryland’s uniforms or hate them, but anyone paying the least bit of attention last season certainly noticed them. How else could a 2-10 team become the talk of the college football world? That’s what Under Armour set out to do with the Terrapins’ funky red, black and yellow — are we missing any colors? — uniforms. The Terps got noticed. Plank has roughly the same approach to building his own company’s brand. Be big, be bad, be bold. Sure, Under Armour was a little late to the uniform dance, after what Nike did at Oregon. But when they arrived, Under Armour couldn’t be missed.

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  • Most Influential: College Football, 21-25

    No. 21
    Chuck Neinas
    Former interim commissioner, Big 12 Conference

    Photo by: Big 12 Conference
    At a time when the Big 12 was reeling, Neinas took over as interim commissioner and stabilized the membership, added TCU and West Virginia, and initiated talks with ESPN and Fox about a new TV deal. Neinas also had a seat at the table as negotiations began for a college football playoff, and he started the formation of the Champions Bowl with the SEC. Even though Neinas is no longer in the commissioner’s chair, he left the Big 12 in much better shape than he found it after only nine months. The pioneer of the search firm business and longtime administrator showed that he still has the chops to be an influential force in the game.



    No. 22
    Jeremy Foley
    Athletic director, University of Florida

    Foley is simply the most influential voice among athletic directors in the nation’s most dominant conference. For
    Photo by: UF Communications
    20years, his school has produced some of the best football teams in the SEC. During that time, Foley has emerged as a thoughtful but forceful personality who drives the discussion whenever SEC athletic directors meet. Other SEC ADs say there’s no question who sets the agenda in league meetings and whose voice carries the most weight. It’s Foley’s.




    No. 23
    Greg Brown
    CEO, Learfield Sports

    Photo by: Learfield
    Learfield’s chief executive has developed 30 years of relationships in the college space and overseen a business that has deals with close to 50 major colleges, including North Carolina, Penn State, Oklahoma, Stanford and Alabama. Whenever those partners have a question about the commercial side of the athletics business, Brown is usually their first call. With a recent cash boost from Shamrock Capital Advisors and a partnership in IMG’s ticketing business, Learfield has positioned itself to remain as one of the top marketers in college sports.



    No. 24
    Melinda Witmer
    Chief programming officer, Time Warner Cable

    As the gatekeeper at the country’s second-largest cable operator, Witmer has a big say in the college channels that will be
    Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
    successful and the college channels that won’t. Time Warner Cable is the biggest cable operator in Texas, but the MSO isn’t close to a carriage deal with Longhorn Network. Time Warner Cable is one of the biggest distributors in the Los Angeles market and it was one of the first to sign on for the Pac-12 Networks. Under Witmer’s guidance, Time Warner Cable was one of the last major distributors to cut a deal for Big Ten Network.




    No. 25
    Bill Hancock
    Executive director, BCS

    Photo by: BCS
    It can be argued — and rightly so — that Hancock’s influence is limited because he’s not one of the decision-makers in the BCS. But when it’s time for the conference commissioners to meet, Hancock sets the agenda and keeps them on task. One administrator said, “His job is to keep the horses in the barn, but you’ve got to understand that he’s dealing with some wild broncos.” Because he’s the executive director, Hancock also has evolved into something of a spokesman for the BCS. He might not be the face of the BCS, but often he’s considered its voice, and always its biggest champion.

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  • Extra yardage

    Who’s where?
    TCU and West Virginia start new eras in the Big 12. Texas A&M and Missouri are SEC-ready. Syracuse, Pittsburgh,

    Texas A&M and Missouri are preparing for the SEC..
    Photo by: Getty Images
    Boise State and San Diego State are in their farewell seasons before switching conferences. Change is the new normal. No more Texas-Texas A&M or Pitt-West Virginia or Missouri-Kansas. Will the realignment talk that disrupted football seasons and distracted fans finally go quiet or will another round of conference expansion steal the headlines?

    Pac-12 Networks
    Six regional feeds and a national network launched this month, making the Pac-12 Networks the most ambitious media initiative any conference has ever attempted. It’s also the only conference channel wholly owned by the league, meaning that its member schools take on all of the risk and will share in all of the revenue. By aggregating TV, digital and sponsorship rights under one umbrella — Pac-12 Enterprises — the Pac-12 looks more like a professional league than any of its brethren.

    Longhorn Network carriage
    It was this time last year that the Longhorn Network launched with all of the fanfare and promotional muscle that ESPN could put behind it. Despite the marketing efforts and a rabid Texas fan base, the channel hasn’t caused the kind of consumer feeding frenzy to persuade more distributors to take it. This season, the Longhorns are front-loading their schedule with two live football games, compared with one last year. Will that create enough of a consumer uproar in the markets where it isn’t currently carried?

    California’s new digs
    The school has spent $321 million on 89-year-old Memorial Stadium, which reopens Sept. 1 after receiving a badly needed upgrade and retrofit to make it safe enough to withstand an earthquake. To pay for much of the project, Cal established an endowment seating program, which is selling 3,200 premium seats for 30 years for $40,000 to $225,000. The school has sold about 70 percent of its inventory. Schools around the country will be watching to see if Cal can reach its $300 million goal.

    Penn State’s new era
    One of college football’s flagship programs is forever changed. An athletic department that relied on football for $72 million of its $116 million in total revenue in 2010-11 could see football revenue fall. Ticket sales, radio advertising, sponsorships, stadium signage — all of the revenue streams that come from football will be stressed if the Nittany Lions become a football has-been because of the severe NCAA sanctions.

    Big East TV
    A year ago, the Big East turned down $130 million a year from ESPN as part of a long-term extension so that it could
    The Big East is hoping for big numbers.
    Photo by: Getty Images
    create a more competitive bid process this fall, which the conference hopes will drive up the rights fee. Newly named commissioner Mike Aresco, the former CBS executive, will have to create a perception of value in a conference that has suffered the loss of marquee teams West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, as well as the loss of its place among the top conferences at the BCS table. He’ll also be responsible for holding together a conference that could see a split among its football and basketball members.




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  • Five schools get football programs under way

    When the Lindenwood University-Belleville football team takes the field Sept. 1, its unique maroon-and-gray striped field will likely garner most of the media coverage. The first-year team is one of five new college football teams set to debut this season, joining 28 new programs that have begun play since 2008.

    Annual data compiled by the National Football Foundation shows that the growth will continue; 17 more programs are set to launch between 2013 and 2015. The group began tracking college football patterns in 2009, the year Northeastern University in Boston and Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y., dropped decades-old football programs, citing low returns on high costs.

    Lindenwood University’s maroon-and-gray striped field has generated plenty of buzz.
    Photo by: Lindenwood University
    “There didn’t seem to be a correct balance in the reporting, because any time a school has to discontinue their football program, they always do it for good reasons,” said NFF President and CEO Steve Hatchell. “But the fact is, college football continues to grow, and with that growth comes a lot more higher-education opportunities for young men to go to college, play football and get a degree. Most of the guys at the lower-level schools know they are not going to the NFL — they are playing because they like to play. And for a young man to get a scholarship to go to college, that’s a blessing, a real blessing.”

    This year’s additions are Division III Misericordia University (Dallas, Pa.) and four NAIA schools: Lindenwood University-Belleville (Belleville, Ill.), Point University (West Point, Ga.), Bluefield College (Bluefield, Va.), and Wayland Baptist University (Plainview, Texas). Additionally, more than $69 million was spent on stadium construction at facilities below Division I for 2012.

    Next fall’s rookie crop includes the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Mercer University, which will each play in a new stadium, and Stetson University, which will play in an extensively upgraded facility. All three will compete at the Football Championship Subdivision level, although Charlotte will move up to FBS status for the 2015 season.

    The growth results in a steady stream of business to facility vendors, especially to schools that want to make a splash.

    Lindenwood’s EnviroTurf, for example, will be one of only four college fields in the country to be a color other than
    green, and the only one in the NAIA. The day the turf was revealed last month, it was No. 1 on Yahoo’s trending sports stories.

    And when Lamar (Texas) University restarted its football program in 2010, the school’s $30 million stadium renovation included a 1,258-square-foot Daktronics end zone scoreboard, more than 100 square feet larger than an end zone board the company installed for the University of Louisville just a few months earlier.

    “LED pricing has dropped substantially over the last five years,” said Daktronics’ product marketing manager, Marty Brown, who has been with the company since 1997. “This is good for second-tier schools.”

    NCAA data released last year show that with a median annual expense of just under $4 million, it costs less than half as much to operate a Division II football program as it does an FCS program. The operating cost is about $10.1 million for programs in the FCS, according to the report.

    But Hatchell, who was the first commissioner of the Big 12 Conference and whose college football résumé includes serving as the executive director of the FedEx Orange Bowl, said college presidents below the FBS and FCS levels are not expecting a direct revenue gain simply because they add football.

    For example, Hatchell said, for many schools that have faced years of declining enrollment among men, adding football provides an immediate boost. The U.S. Department of Education projects that by 2019, women will account for 59 percent of total undergraduate enrollment and 61 percent of total post-baccalaureate enrollment at the nation’s colleges and universities. And the gap is even greater among minorities.

    In addition, getting alumni to return to campus for organized events during parents weekends and homecomings gives school development offices an opportunity to connect with potential donors in a social setting.

    But the benefit of adding a football program most often cited by college administrators, Hatchell said, is that it adds a sense of community on campus and among the alumni.

    “Football is such a unifying element to a school. Students and faculty come back in the fall and football starts right away, and once a week everyone is together for one cause,” Hatchell said. “It doesn’t have to be a huge program where every week the goal is to play for the national championship, but it’s a nice way to connect the whole community.”

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