Has college football become a campus commodity?

Now, armen keteyian on assignment for “60 minutes”. Keteyian: Turn on the television almost any day this week and you’ll find a college football game. And there’s a good reason why– the popularity and importance of the sport is at an all-time high. That’s because, for more and more universities across the country, success on the football field now equals a higher profile for the entire school. This has fueled an arms race in the college game, the likes of which the sport has never seen. And with a lucrative national playoff beginning in 2015, that race will only accelerate. Just how essential is college football these days? Well, judge for yourself, as we take you on the road and behind the scenes, beginning in michigan stadium, in a place they call “the big house.” A fall saturday in ann arbor, michigan, and players from the winningest program in the history of college football burst onto the field. It’s one of the timeless traditions that define the game, the michigan wolverines slapping a banner in the country’s biggest stadium as the band blares the school’s famous fight song. ♪ ♪ ♪ Keteyian:112,000 fans roaring as one, exactly how michigan athletic director dave brandon wants it. Dave Brandon: We want people to never even think about staying home and watching this in 3d on their flat screen television. That’s unacceptable. We want things to be going on here that are not going to get covered, and not going to be a part of their living room experience. Keteyian: That’s why, for michigan’s home opener, brandon brought in a stealth bomber to help kick off the game, and two seasons ago, had the game ball special-delivered right out of the sky. Brandon: We want our fans to be wowed. Keteyian: Dave brandon was hired as athletic director here two years ago, a former michigan football player and c.E.O. Of domino’s pizza, schooled in the ingredients of marketing success. Brandon: Good morning. Are we ready to go? Keteyian: On game day, he never stops moving, arriving five hours early, double checking on everything from the expensive suites to the concession stands… Brandon: Hi, I’m with the quality control department… Keteyian: …To the freshness of the cookies. Truth is, he simply can’t afford not to be obsessed with the tiniest details. Because like virtually every other college in the country, michigan’s entire athletic department budget– this year, all $133 million supporting 29 sports– is built on the back of one thing, football revenue. How much of that $133 million is your football team responsible for? Brandon: About 75%. Keteyian: So I’m doing the math, that’s north of $90 million. Es that number keep you at night? Brandon: Well, I think it was mark twain who said, “if you put all your eggs in one basket, you better watch your basket.” I watch my basket pretty carefully when it comes to football. Keteyian: Michigan has the nation’s largest alumni group, and a zealous fan base that gobbles up millions of dollars in merchandise. Even so, brandon taps into that fervor any way he can. Yes, for $6,000 a pop, the big house can occasionally be turned into the chapel of love. With revenue streams flowing from every direction, michigan’s athletic department turns a profit, but it is the exception in college sports. Brandon: The business model of big-time college athletics is primarily broken. It’s a horrible business model. Keteyian: Broken. Brandon: Broken. You’ve got 125 of these programs. Out of 125, 22 of them were cash flow even or cash flow positive. Now, thankfully, we’re one of those. What that means is you’ve got a model that’s not sustainable, in most cases. You just don’t have enough revenues to support the costs. And the costs continue to go up. Keteyian: Why? A big reason is universities are in the midst of a sports building binge. Cal berkeley, for example, renovated its stadium to the tune of $321 million. The list is endless. Michigan’s athletic department floated $226 million in bonds to upgrade the big house. What are you chasing? Brandon: We want to win championships. Keteyian: You’re going to get a big payout. Brandon: We’re going to have excited fans, we’re going to fill stadiums, we’re going to be on tv, we’re going to accomplish all of the goals that we need to accomplish to keep this department moving ahead. Keteyian: And that’s where the phrase “arms race” comes up. Brandon: If you don’t keep pace, if you don’t stay competitive, you’re going to have a problem. Keteyian: Inside a recently built indoor practice facility that many an nfl team would envy, we spoke to michigan’s head coach brady hoke. Can you recruit a top player without facilities like this? Brady Hoke: You know, it matters. I’d be sitting here lying if i didn’t think it mattered. I think the other part of it, though, the people have to matter, too. Keteyian: The program every school has been chasing is alabama. The crimson tide have rolled to two national titles in the last three years. The architect of that success is nick saban, as innovative a coach as there is in the game, and the leader of another escalating trend in college football– skyroing coaching salaries. Saban is paid over $5 million a year, more than alabama’s chancellor. Are you worth it? Nick Saban: Probably not. Probably not. But I think the other side of that is you almost have to look at what return has there been on that investment? Keteyian: Since saban took over in 2007, alabama’s profits have nearly tripled, a rare athletic department not drowning in red ink. Saban’s championship ways have not only earned him a place in alabama lore; today, he and his school are such a valued commodity, they were handpicked for the showcase game in prime time the first saturday of this season, a match-up engineered by espn– alabama against michigan inside sold-out cowboys stadium in dallas in front of 90,000 diehard fans. Each school took home a record $10 million from ticket sales and television rights, an athletic director’s dream. Brandon: This game will sell merchandise. It will create interest for tickets back home. It’ll hopefully get other networks bidding for these opportunities for us. Keteyian: For schools without the pedigree of michigan or alabama, football has become the fastest way to put their universities on the map. This was unhd towson university, preparing in baton rouge, louisiana, to play powerhouse lsu in what is known as a “guarantee” game. Towson was guaranteed a half million dollars to show up, and also guaranteed to lose, on national tv, no less. Before the game, we spoke to towson athletic director mike waddell. Why subject your team to this? Mike Waddell: There’ll be more people watching this game tonight than perhaps have ever watched anything to do with towson university in our history, going back 146 years. Keteyian: But then a funny thing happened on the way to the slaughter. The sacrificial lambs didn’t lie down. With five minutes to go in the first half, the nobodies from north baltimore led mighty lsu, 9-7. But at halftime, towson head coach rob ambrose wasn’t gloating. Rob Ambrose: Any of you sons of bitches that are smiling because you think we did something, I’m going to kill you. It’s a 15-round fight, not five. You got it? Yes, sir! Ambrose: What the hell are we waiting for? Let’s go! Keteyian: Lsu’s talent would eventually prove too much. But towson never stopped fighting, right to the end. An eventual 38-22 loss on the scoreboard, but a win for the towson university brand. Waddell: Way to go, buddy! You couldn’t buy this type of an advertisement nationally. Keteyian: Even at a place like michigan, one of the top academic institutions in the country, football is the front porch to the school and a magnet for donations to the entire university. Brandon: This is a huge giving season. Our development folks have actually done statistical research on how much of the giving takes place during the football season, and it’s a disproportionate amount. Keteyian: Disproportionate. How much? Brandon: I think the number is somewhere between 60% and 70%, and that’s why, in many cases, you see universities who drop football bringing it back, because that magnet works. Hoke: Everybody got that? That was a good win. Keteyian: With all this on the line, believe it or not, there is no more important hire a university can make these days than its head football coach. Hoke: This is michigan, for god’s sake. Keteyian: In michigan’s case, last year, it was little-known brady hoke, a “character counts” coach who has revitalized this storied program. Hoke is the last to admit to the pressure he’s under to win. But like most coaches, his life speaks for him. Average day, when do you get in here? Hoke:5:45. Keteyian: An average day, when do you leave? Hoke: Oh, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30 sometimes. Keteyian: The alabama game started around 7:15 texas time. How much did you eat that day? Hoke: I didn’t. Keteyian: Why? Hoke: That’s a good question. Probably a little bit of antsiness, nerves, whatever. Keteyian: Alabama’s nick saban knows that feeling all too well. How long will you let yourself savor a win like that win over michigan? Saban: Well, when we won the national championship, about two hours after the game, somebody said, “you don’t seem very happy.” And I said, “well, I’m just worried about what the issues are going to be for next year,” because something’s happening. Keteyian: So you allowed yourself a whole 120 minutes of pure pleasure. Saban: Not very long. Keteyian: Like an inverted pyramid, the constant pressure funnels down, from the coaches to the players, almost all of whom are between 18 and 23 years old. Take a look and listen to an average michigan practice in august, a week before school even started. It resembled a ten-ring circus. When it was over, ice baths provided a welcome, if brief, relief. The truth is, being a college football player these days means a year-round cycle of practice, weightlifting, and off-season workouts. Here were michigan players last may, training with navy seals out in san diego. Denard robinson, the team’s star quarterback, led the charge. These are full-time jobs. Fair to say? Denard Robinson: Oh, yeah. Keteyian: Full-time? Robinson: Oh, yeah, it is. It is a full-time job. It’s a grind. And it’s… It’s a grind because you have to do this. Because those games that you are going to face, it’s going to take a toll on you. Keteyian: And you know the other reason is because the guys across from you are doing the same damn thing. Robinson: The same thing. Oh, yeah. Keteyian: Remember that michigan-alabama game in dallas? After a dispiriting loss, the wolverines didn’t return to ann arbor until 5:00 in the morning, the end of a 40-hour weekend. On top of it all, the players still had to be in class on monday morning. That means even robinson, the unquestioned big man on campus. His number 16 jersey is the hottest property in town. When he’s healthy, robinson’s dynamic play has determined michigan’s fate. And when he gets hurt, the entire michigan family holds its collective breath. There’s a lot at stake here. Do you worry that it’s just too much pressure on these student athletes? Brandon: Yes, I do worry. I see kids. I see 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids who are still trying to figure out life and figure what they’re about. Most rabid fans don’t see any of that. Keteyian: No, what they’re seeing more and more of is this… Nail-biting finishes… Unscripted drama… How about that! Keteyian: …Unbridled passion. More than ever, schools going all in on the high-stakes game called college football. GO TO 60minutesovertime.com For a star quarterback’s perspective on football as a full-time job. Sponsored by pfizer.

11 thoughts on “Has college football become a campus commodity?

  1. Nothing new about this…it's been going on like forever at top
    football schools. Unfortunately, except for some of the quarter-
    backs, they recruit star players who are totally unqualified
    academically, and the rules about 'perks' are mostly ignored.

  2. He's a moron for thinking flyovers, fireworks, and halftime shows are the reason people come to games. People come to games for one thing and one thing only Dave–GOOD FOOTBALL! Each Michigan game is not a ''mini super bowl''. The only reason there are empty seats is because the football team stinks (because of a failure of a head coach which you hired) and you have jacked up ticket prices by 30 dollars since you got here. 

  3. At a time when an increasing number of universities no longer offer tenured positions, when many institutions have cut back academic programs and where tuition is unaffordable for most families, how can Michigan U justify spending $133 million just on its athletic dept and how can Alabama justify paying their coach $5 million when their adjunct professors are earning less than a high school teacher is? Yes we all love sports but these are definitely the wrong priorities.

  4. Sorry 60 minutes, but college football is not 'more popular than ever,' if anything it's less popular than ever.

    The 2015 BCS National Championship between Ohio State and Oregon pulled in 33 million viewers, which yes, is quite a lot, but even the last episode of Cheers had 70 million viewers, not to mention the FIFA World Cup had over 700 million viewers.

  5. They too will go to pay per view to fund all those expenses unlike the professional football should stay were it is but greedy owners want more money. in other words college should pay the student athletes plus scholarship to attend their school why invade if life threatening injury I preferred going to games it's better nut it supports the student athletes income besides every no and then u have to deal with tickets fans Alabama top out I see them losing again Nick Satan dolphin traitor it's a money machine for colleges

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