The athletics program is making a significant portion of its revenue off the football team playing road games.
On Saturday, the Chippewas will make $450,000 to play at North Carolina State. Athletics director Dave Heeke couldn’t say how much of overall revenue that is, but he says it’s “significant.”
Athletics needs that revenue to function and it’s not getting it from home games.
“On our best day where we sellout, we’re only making $300,000 at best and that’s just gross revenue, not net revenue,” Heeke said.
The Chippewas had to pay South Carolina State $300,000 to come to Mount Pleasant, according to Heeke, CMU lost money for the home opener.
That’s why CMU typically only plays one non-conference home game a year.
“You have to go on the road to generate revenue,” Heeke said. “Home games are important and good for our fan base, but in reality, we need to get revenue.”
Heeke tries to schedule non-conference games 5-10 year in advance.
The contract with Michigan for a 2013 game is still being ironed out and although it won’t be for $1 million, Heeke says it will bring in “significant revenue.”
“Large schools are able to pay more out,” Heeke said. “Michigan will make $5 million on an average football Saturday. That’s why they’re able to pay visiting teams that they’re favored to win. The more competitive the game, the lower the price.”
When CMU goes to closer schools, they don’t make as much money simply because they don’t have to pay as much to travel. A bus ride to East Lansing and plane trip to Clemson is a big difference.
Heeke said he’s having conversations with multiple schools to make $1 million deals to play road games. He couldn’t disclose those schools since talks are in early stages.
CMU has constructed 2-for-1 deals with N.C. State and Oklahoma State which will bring those schools to Kelly/Shorts Stadium for a game.
Even though CMU is making $450,000 Saturday at N.C. State, it will only make $250,000 on its next trip in 2013. That’s because CMU will pay back the $250,000 for the Wolfpack to play in Mount Pleasant in 2014.
Neither Michigan State nor CMU will pay each other when MSU comes to Mount Pleasant next year or when CMU goes there in 2015. The Spartans will make more off a single game with more seats, but Heeke still sees it as a win-win.
Heeke expects the MSU game next year to bring in the largest single-game revenue CMU has seen. The ticket prices will be raised significantly for that game as supply will be low and demand high.
If MSU didn’t come to Mount Pleasant for that game next year, instead of making $500,000 in two games with the Spartans, CMU could have made up toward $700,000 on a visit to MSU, according to Heeke.
The most revenue gained from an away game was in 2008 going to Georgia for $875,000, back when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the country.
“You got to generate revenue to run a program,” Heeke said. “It’s raising a significant piece of our revenue, there’s no doubt.”