Football “Revenue” Feels Inaccurate

A couple of weeks ago, NC State’s Associate Athletics Director David Horning had a nice little run in the media spotlight. During the week, Horning was not only was featured in a national article on, but Pack Pride ran one of its better pieces in a two-part Q&A interview with Horning that focused on finances, football, and scheduling. (Part One and Part Two)

Horning was introduced in Pack Pride’s piece as being in his “21st year in Wolfpack athletics and his fourth year as Senior Associate AD. He serves as the senior administrator for all men’s sports with particular emphasis upon men’s basketball and football. He oversees the daily operations of compliance, video services, Murphy Football Center and equipment room, as well as ongoing capital projects and facility renovations for the department.”

I’ve got a lot of thoughts and follow-up related to Horning’s comments and interviews, but I just haven’t had time to type yet. But, one of my items reared its head today in a post from…so, I decided to log this quick entry.

In Cha-Ching, linked to the Equity in Athletics website and highlighted the Top 10 revenue producing football programs in the country in 2003-2004.

The schools were as follows:

(1) Texas $47,556,281
(2) Tennessee $46,704,719
(3) Ohio State $46,242,355
(4) Florida $42,710,967
(5) Georgia $42,104,214
(6) Alabama $39,848,836
(7) Notre Dame $38,596,090
(8) Michigan $38,547,937
(9) LSU $38,381,625
(10) Auburn $37,173,943

There are no big surprises there — large schools, with large stadiums, who were successful on the field and who sell lots of tickets at high prices. Makes total sense and is about what I expected.

The word, “revenue”, is not difficult to understand and is universally understood. Revenue is interchangeable with the “gross sales”, meaning all “sales/revenue” generated before any expenses are accounted for within an enterprise. As says, “All the income produced by a particular source. ”

With that in mind, can someone PLEASE try to explain to me the following from Horning’s interview?:

Q: “With the increased seating capacity at C-F…. how much revenue does an “average” home game (tickets, concessions, parking) generate for NC State’s athletics department?”

A: “When you run the ticket numbers, the concessions and things like that, a home game could generate roughly close to a million dollars. Then you also have expenses, and then you have a revenue stream from the conference for football, TV and everything else.”

Pardon me…but, WTF? “Close to a million dollars?”…of revenue per game? This made absolutely NO SENSE to me then; and it makes even less sense to me now.

Let’s think about this in very quick terms — Carter-Finley Stadium holds 55,000 people. Let’s carve away 15,000 seats for band, visitors, and students (whom should have student fees pay for their tickets) and say that we only sell 40,000 tickets per game. Assuming that 15,000 student tickets are provided free by the Athletics Department (which they are not since student fees are collected to compensate for tickets); at $30 a game, a single football game easily generates $1.2 million of revenue BEFORE concessions and parking.

My initial thought was that Horning was incorrectly interpreting the question of “revenue per game” for the idea of “profit per game” (defined as income after expenses). BUT, his answer indicates very clearly that he knows exactly of what he speaks when he says, “when you run the ticket numbers, the concessions and things like that…”

Despite the appearance that Horning understood the question, a quick look at other information provided in the Q&A (like how much we pay out for an opponents appearance, etc) seems to indicate that we can assume that NC State clears approximately a million dollars per home game (BEFORE this year’s addition of Vaughn Towers) as opposed to generates a million dollars of revenue per home game. If it is true that a football game at NC State only generates a million dollars of revenue, then we need a comprehensive public accounting and investigation of the flow of funds between the Wolfpack Club and the Athletics Department.

The questions asked in this interview from Pack Pride were as good of an interview as they have conducted since their existence. There seemed to be a focus on interesting information and not fluffy softballs to keep the administrators at the school happy in order to keep James Henderson on Annabelle Vaughn’s list for media credentials. My only complaint would be the lack of follow-up on some items that clearly were confusing such as this revenue issue. For example, in addition to clearing up this obviously confusing point, it would have been nice to have learned how much revenue is generated from each source — tickets, concessions, and parking, respectively.

In the next case, Pack Pride was nibbling on the edge of getting us some more relevant information in the following exchange:

Q: After accounting for direct football expenses – salaries, equipment, game day operations, etc – how much “profit” does football generate for the department?

A: Well, it’s hard to say a set number because whether you go to a bowl game or not generates a little profit. Factors differ each year so it is hard to give a set number.

It would have been very nice to get some kind of a specific figure here, even if Horning didn’t want (or couldn’t) share one. Perhaps finding out “total revenue” generated by the entire football program (just like what is discussed in the relevant Fansblog post) would have been the way to go here. The natural progression here would have been to learn what the basketball program generates as well as other programs.

Oh well…I understand that voicing a concern over something like definition of a term feels quite trivial. But, I do think that it is important to be as accurate as possible – especially when discussing financial issues. I have not yet seen where anyone else has discussed the issue, so there are surely folks out there that think that an NC State Football game only generates a million dollars of revenue. That just can’t be the case and I think that it was important to highlight it for the sake of accuracy.