When I was a much younger, strapping single lad, I learned an important lesson in the eternal quest to get lucky with the ladies on a Friday night; having a few of my platonic girlfriends along greatly increased my chances of success! Upon comparing notes with my buddies, we quickly figured out that a tried and true principle from the world of finance was at work in the bars of Hillsborough Street – it takes money to make money.
The more “money” you have around you, the more money you’ll attract and thus increase your chances of success. This principle not only works in finance and dating, it also works in college athletics and NC State AD Debbie Yow said as much in a presentation to the Board of Trustees last week.
StateFans Nation readers have mixed reactions to Yow’s stewardship of the men’s basketball coaching search, with the infamous email to Wolfpack Club members and then the Gary Williams incident taking center stage. Regardless of how you feel about either of those incidents, Yow’s presentation to the Trustees was spot on in its assessment of where the NC State athletics budget stands in relation to the funding needed for an athletic program that is more successful overall. You can join the conversation about Yow’s presentation in this thread on our forums.
To recap, NC State currently ranks 11th out of the 12 ACC schools per sport expenditures with a budget of approximately $55 million for 2011-2012. According to data from the US Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics website, for the year ending June 30, 2010 NC State brought in $50,335,991 in total revenues against $47,180,081 in total expenses. This budget brought us an athletic program that ranked 89th in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings for 2009-2010, the lowest ranking of any ACC school. (For the sake of clarity, it should be noted that these figures are operating budget and do not include scholarship funding, which is what the Wolfpack Club provides.)
Contrast that with Stanford University, who has revenues and expenses of $81 million and has won the Director’s Cup for the most successful overall athletic program for umpteen years running. And just because we all care about the comparison (whether we admit it or not) Dark Blue spent about $68 million and Light Blue spent $67 million. And both of those schools finished in the Top 10 of the Directors’ Cup rankings.
When you look at this data, you always want to compare apples to apples, so I used the Equity in Athletics website to pull the budget data for public universities with an undergraduate enrollment of at least 20,000. Of those 36 institutions, I stopped counting when I got to 14 schools with a larger athletic budget than NC State. This athletic funding directly affects athletic competitiveness. Just as a hypothetical example, more funding might allow the Wolfpack baseball team to charter a flight to somewhere like Clemson, that they may ride a bus to now, thus arriving more rested for the game. (Again, it’s a hypothetical, for all I know, the baseball team flies everywhere outside the Triangle.)
Of course, if you’re going to point out a problem and be willing to confront it, you also have to propose solutions. Debbie Yow floated several potential ideas by the Board of Trustees to increase athletic revenues. These ideas range from increased parking fees, to a new apparel contract for all sports, to increased student fees, which are currently seventh out of eight public universities in the ACC. Any one of Yow’s ideas will no doubt have detractors. For example, I would not be nuts about an increase to the football parking fees. But that’s not the point, you must give Debbie Yow credit for confronting the problem in a public manner and coming up with ideas to fix it. If my parking fees increase, but I see both improved results and accountability, that pill becomes much easier to swallow.
Clearly, there are more factors than money in having national athletic success. Butler has an athletic budget of approximately $12 million and has now been to two straight Final Fours in men’s basketball. By the same token, money will not guarantee success. Indiana spent in the same neighborhood as both Dark Blue and Light Blue and ranked a whopping 43rd in the Directors’ Cup standings.
The financial investment MUST be met with a change in culture where mediocrity is not tolerated. As has been well documented on this website, previous persons in NC State athletic leadership with a distinct resemblance to Jed Clampett did tolerate mediocrity and worse. From what we’ve seen so far out of Debbie Yow, I think it’s safe to say that the culture of Wolfpack athletics is starting to change, and not a moment too soon.
College athletics is big business and I give Debbie Yow credit for publicly treating it as such. Hopefully, NC State can increase our athletic revenues and in turn, provide the funding for championship teams to match our championship hungry fanbase. Unless we get some more girls to go with us to Champions Bar and Grill, we’re going to keep on striking out.