Temple is one of 1,100 collegiate athletic programs that does not turn a profit and has to be subsidized with university funds.
There is only one way for the athletic department to eat away at its subsidy: generate more revenue. Both the athletic department and university communications declined to provide an exact breakdown of the $6,340,000 in generated revenue, but data from the NCAA provides a glimpse into what it could look like.
A 2010 study from the NCAA regarding trends, revenues and expenses from 2004-09 showed that for most Division I athletic programs, ticket sales and donations make up almost half of a program’s total generated revenue. Ticket sales make up an average of 30 percent of generated revenues, while donations make up 25 percent.
Looking at Temple’s attendance data from the NCAA in the three revenue sports, football, men’s and women’s basketball and figures for donations from the athletic department, Temple athletics has shown improvement in both of those areas, in large part due to the recent success in each revenue sport.
“We’ve seen growth in our season ticket holder base, we’ve seen increases in all the major revenue categories, fundraising, corporate sponsorship and ticket sales,” said Eric Roedl, senior associate athletic director and chief financial officer of the athletic department.
“There’s certainly a correlation between the success of our programs and the revenue we generate.”
For its first season under former head coach Al Golden in 2006, the football team’s average home attendance at Lincoln Financial Field was 15,810 as the team went 1-11. As the years went on, the team’s record would improve along with the crowd’s attendance. In the 2010 season, the team went 8-4 and had an average home attendance of 20,515.
In Fran Dunphy’s inaugural season as head coach of the men’s basketball team in the 2006-07 season, the average attendance for home games at the Liacouras Center was 4,312 as the team went 12-18. Four years, three Atlantic Ten Conference titles and four trips to the NCAA Tournament later, the Owls’ average home attendance grew to 5,925 during the 2010-11 season.
Of the three revenue sports, home attendance for women’s basketball games has fluctuated, despite going 70-28 and making the NCAA Tournament three times in three seasons under coach Tonya Cardoza. In Cardoza’s first year with the team in the 2008-09 season, average home attendance was 1,056. The following year, average home attendance jumped to 2,302 before falling to 1,563 in the 2010-11 season.
Because of the team’s lower attendance numbers, some home games were in McGonigle Hall. This past season, six of the team’s 13 home games were played in McGonigle Hall, which was done as both a cost-cutting measure and because the venue is more accommodating for a smaller crowd.
“It’s more about atmosphere really,” Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw said. “If there’s a crowd that’s expected to be greater than three or four thousand, you consider taking it over to the Liacouras Center, but it’s the atmosphere. The women enjoy it. Coaches enjoy it because it’s more of a home-court advantage than the Liacouras Center is if you have 500 people. So yes, I think it’s a little of both. Common sense and dollars sense is why you would take some games to McGonigle.”
The Liacouras Center is owned by Temple, but operates as a separate auxiliary run by a company called Global Spectrum, just as athletics is an auxiliary of the university. To use the Liacouras Center, athletics must pay rent per game and the operating expenses per game. If the Liacouras Center holds an event that requires the basketball court to be removed, athletics must pay to have it put back up. Times for practices and other events must be arranged as athletics does not control the use of the arena.
Revenues for parking and concessions go to the Liacouras Center, and revenues for ticket sales and suite sales go to athletics. A commonwealth reporting requirements report from December 2010 shows the athletic department paid $955,310 to Global Spectrum for game rent, game operating expenses, catering, athletics’ share of ticket office expenses and sponsorship revenue sharing.
A similar arrangement is also made with the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles for the use of Lincoln Financial Field, but a share of concessions does go to athletics.
Donations are another source of revenue that has grown over the past few years. In the 2007-08 fiscal year, 1,876 people donated a combined $1,059,405 to the athletic department. By the 2009-10 fiscal year, the donor base grew to 2,109 people that donated a combined $3,365,432.
Figures for individual donors are unavailable, but there is an honor roll naming all the people who donated to athletics, which is organized into tiers based on a minimum amount donated in a given fiscal year. Some notable names on the list include Lewis Katz, a member of the university’s Board of Trustees, former Temple football player and current member of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks Raheem Brock, former university president Peter Liacouras, provost Richard Englert and former trustee and namesake of the Fox School of Business, Richard J. Fox.
Goals for the Program
While the athletic department has been more successful in generating revenue in recent years, there is still more work to be done.
“We have a lot pressure on us to generate revenue,” Roedl said. “It’s a major focus for us everyday, 365 days a year, so we’re very tuned into attendance, our ticket revenue, our corporate sponsor revenue, donations and all those things. We’re looking for continuous improvement in all those areas.”
“We don’t have a day here where people don’t have to come in and roll their sleeves up and have to sell because we don’t sell out anything,” Bradshaw added. “We don’t have legacies of season ticket holders lined up to take places like some schools do. We always create, innovate [and schedule] major opponents and pretty good teams to be able to do it in Philadelphia. We not only have to be pretty good, but we also have to have an opponent that’s pretty good and attractive to get people to come out.”
Recently, some headway has been made with scheduling home games against big-time teams in the revenue sports. From 2011 through 2016, Temple football will have a total of five home games against three different Bowl Championship Series conference teams and a home game against Notre Dame in 2014. In men’s basketball, Duke will come to Philadelphia in the 2011-12 season.
“Scheduling is a big part of our overall strategy in generating revenue, and not just with revenue for that game, but building our fan base in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball,” Roedl said. “You want to bring great teams into Philadelphia, have a great product on the field and generate a lot of excitement in this marketplace. Certainly bringing in Penn State, Notre Dame or Duke for men’s basketball [would be] huge games that [would] create a lot of excitement and a lot of revenue.”
“It’s not easy,” Bradshaw added. “You have to consider that there’s a lot of conferences, and they have competition against teams in the conference. It’s really a lot of behind-the-scenes hard work to get teams to be interested.”
The theory behind scheduling big-time opponents is that more revenue will be generated, not only from home fans wanting to see their team play a big-time opponent, but also because the same amount of fans for the opposing side, if not more than the home fans, will show up to support the opposing team.
“Hopefully, you get enough students, alumni and season ticket holders that want to watch your team play so that you don’t have to count on the opposition to bring fans into your building,” Bradshaw said. “Hopefully, we’ll get to that with our programs, that we’re equally as good so that any competition we bring in, more people will come to see us play than the opponent.”
Another aspect of building the program is by either improving or building new athletic facilities. The expansion of Pearson and McGonigle halls is expected to be completed next fall, which was a necessary addition, Bradshaw said.
“We’re actually behind in the basketball practice facility race, even in Philadelphia. Villanova is ahead, St. [Joseph’s] just completed theirs. You call it state of the art, but there’s a lot of people who have them,” Bradshaw said. “It’s also a necessity. You have to consider the venue that we have, and we don’t control the use of [the Liacouras Center].”
“It does help in recruiting when you can take a young man or woman through there after they’ve already been to several campuses where they have that advantage with their own weight room, their own locker room and practice facility dedicated to that sport,” he added.
One of the other goals for the athletic program is to eventually have enough funding to provide the maximum amount of scholarships allowed by the NCAA to each team. Currently, out of 559 student athletes, around 40 percent of them are walk-ons, meaning they do not have a scholarship, Roedl said.
“We try to fully fund every sport when it comes to scholarships. On the women’s side were pretty close, on the men’s side, we’re not there,” said Roedl, who declined to say which teams were short on scholarships.
The Value of Athletics
When trying to measure what makes it worthwhile for Temple to invest millions in to intercollegiate athletics, oftentimes the conversation turns toward the intangible.
“For Temple to invest money in athletics, you’re providing No. 1, a great educational opportunity for the student athletes to not only study but to play a sport and develop leadership skills and all that,” Roedl said. “You’re providing a source of spirit and entertainment that can unify the students, faculty and staff to create an exciting collegiate environment. When you look at all those benefits of an athletic program, you have to look at it in that light.”
There is also a discussion of what it means to have 25 games from the revenue sports that have played on national television this year and what that means for the university.
“You’d say with our football and men’s and women’s basketball that we’ve been among those groups that got the value from being in the tournament from being in the bowl or winning, so all of that, [along with] free media and free exposure has been very positive for Temple,” Bradshaw said.
While Temple athletics is in the red financially and will likely stay there for the foreseeable future, Bradshaw and Roedl can continue to build on Temple’s newfound athletic success, whether it can be measured in dollars or some other amount.
“The rich get richer, those with the big budgets get the most exposure, but we’re doing OK. We’re competing, we’re there, we’re close to maximizing that investment by the university,” Bradshaw said. “We think the best days are ahead, we hope to keep it all going, but we’re proud of the performances, and the success adds value to the university.”
Brian Dzenis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.