Monday, December 3, 2012
Nickled and dimed for the first and ten: The economics of high school football playoffs
For some schools, hosting playoffs means "ka-ching!"
High school football playoffs mean big money in Texas.
Championship games are broadcast live on cable, and some matchups bring tens of thousands of fans to NFL venues such as Cowboys Stadium in Arlington and Reliant Stadium in Houston.
The money also trickles down to the teams participating in the games.
While the amount of money a team makes for each game varies, Frisco ISD Athletic Director David Kuykendall said the right matchup can prove profitable for both schools involved.
"A lot of it depends on the team you are playing and how many fans they bring," he said. "In the first round, Frisco High played Highland Park, which has a huge fanbase. However, in the second round, Frisco played Dallas Samuell, a team that brought a lot less fans."
Even with fewer fans in the second round, Kuykendall said he still expects the district to end up in the black when the final numbers come in.
To determine how much each school makes, the total revenue from ticket sales is combined and then all expenses, including the stadium rental and cost of the officiating crew, is subtracted. The remainder is then divided equally between the two participating schools.
The biggest expense is the stadium rental fee, which can vary greatly depending on the stadium, Kuykendall said, adding that the choice of venue has a direct effect on how much money the school makes.
One of, if not the most expensive locations in DFW is Cowboys Stadium.
While the rental fee may be more expensive, this is partially offset by the larger crowds that often attend the annual quadrupleheaders. With well-known venues such as Cowboys Stadium, SMU's Ford Stadium, and the Cotton Bowl not always available, teams with large fan bases often turn to large high school stadiums. Two of those stadiums are Allen ISD's Eagle Stadium and Mesquite ISD's Memorial Stadium. While each seats more than 18,000 people, the rental costs and structures are completely different.
Allen ISD officials did not respond to requests seeking comment on their stadium, but a document on the district website states that it costs $5,000 for Class 4A and 5A schools to rent the stadium, plus 20 percent of the total gate revenue. Allen ISD also charges $5 per vehicle to park and retains that money. Tickets usually run $8 to $10.
In Mesquite ISD, Athletic Director Steve Bragg said things are a bit simpler.
"For 4A or 5A we charge a straight $5,000 rental fee, but we don't take part of the gate and don't charge for parking," Bragg said. "If you are playing at Allen, you are going to pay a little more for that."
Bragg said he believes his district's rental fee structure is in line with the structure used by most districts. He said Allen ISD is likely able to take a portion of that gate since the $60 million facility is brand new and has received national coverage. However, he added that he thinks schools may grow weary of giving up gate money down the line.
Plano ISD Athletic Director Gerald Brence declined to say how much the district charged to rent Clark Stadium, site of this year's second round game between Allen and Mesquite that drew more than 15,000 fans, but felt the district's rates were in line with other area districts.
"We don't want to set our rates too high because then people wouldn't want to come here," he said. "We feel like we have a reasonable, competitive rate, but we want to make some money."
While playing in large, state-of-the-art stadiums is nice, Brence said teams must also try and find a location that is fair to fans of both sides. This often means a neutral site.
"In the first round of the playoffs there are so many games going on that we all have to work together to find enough stadiums," he said. "As we get later in the playoffs and there are fewer games, the geographical part of it gets involved. When you are playing teams from as far away as Lake Travis, they are not going to want to play this far north so you try and meet in the middle."
An example of this was seen this weekend, when Plano West and Allen traveled to Waco to face Lufkin and Round Rock Westwood, respectively.
All three athletic directors said the playoffs are about allowing their students to have the best experience possible. Bragg said when Mesquite schools play at Cowboys Stadium, he is always glad to see the happiness on the faces of everyone that is involved -- not only the players, but members of the band, cheerleading squad and drill team as well. This, he said, is what the experience is all about.
Kuykendall agreed, noting that things don't always come down to simply dollars and cents.
"All sorts of things are factored in," he said. "We want to consider the expenses, but we really want to make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our kids in the playoffs and play in some really nice places if we can."
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