November 6, 2013

In the future, everything will be endowed

College football is basically tribal warfare without all the impalings, so it's interesting to watch the off-the-field maneuverings behind college football to gain some sense of how immemorial emotions are acted upon in the 21st Century. For example, the recent rise to football powerdom of Stanford (rated #5 in the country at the moment) reflects America's growing inequality. Ben Cohen writes in the WSJ:
Stanford isn't like other football powers. It can't generate as much cash from its fans, since it doesn't have nearly as many. Stanford Stadium seats about 50,000—half the size of some venues in the Southeastern and Big Ten conferences. 
The school accounted for $9.7 million in football ticket sales on its 2012 annual report. The four teams ranked above Stanford in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings averaged $27 million, with Ohio State topping the list at $41 million. In merchandise sales, Stanford ranked 42nd this year on the Collegiate Licensing Company's list of top-selling schools, well behind not just Texas but also Texas Tech. 
The normal revenues Stanford receives from football are so low, in fact, that its 36 varsity sports teams depend on something no other school has, or would dare rely so heavily on: an athletics-only endowment worth between $450 million and $500 million that pays out at 5.5% each year, people familiar with the matter said.

To put Stanford's secretive half-billion dollar sports stash in perspective (Stanford's overall endowment is $17 billion), here are the entire endowments of some large colleges:

Penn State $1,780 million
Tulane U. $961 million
Rutgers ($694 million)
U. of Arizona $563 million
Arizona St. (the largest university in the country) $500 million
Florida St. $498 million
The way Stanford keeps up in the college-football arms race is to lean on private donations. As a result, almost everything the football program touches is endowed, from each of the school's 85 football scholarships to David Shaw's head-coaching position. Stanford's offensive coordinator is even known as the Andrew Luck Director of Offense in honor of an anonymous gift in 2012.


Anonymous said...

Stanford reduced the seating in their stadium in 2005, from about 87K to 50K.

"The capacity of the new stadium was set to be approximately 50,000 seats made by Ducharme Seating. The reduction in capacity was a strategic decision by Stanford's Athletics Program to boost season ticket sales and create a more intimate playing atmosphere without sacrificing the ability to host large world-class events, such as the FIFA World Cup or NCAA Football Bowl Games in the future. "

Anonymous said...

OT: Steve, you don't seem to do many movie reviews anymore. Why is that? Is it because you don't feel like it? Haven't seen many movies lately? Taki's Mag not asking for them?

The Anti-Gnostic said...

What recession?

Anonymous said...

Hmm, so I guess you could say that Stanford's athletes are the most well-endowed?

Anonymous said...

Stanford can spend whatever they want, Alabama will still make mincemeat out of them.

sunbeam said...

To me the secret of Stanford's success isn't funding, facilities, and marketing unlike Oregon.

I think there is room for a couple of schools, maybe two or three at most to be "elite" schools like Alabama, LSU, Oregon, and well Stanford based on recent history.

The list of elite schools is kind of fluid, and includes a lot of traditional powers. I define an elite school as one that Vegas gives credible odds to win the national championship before the season starts (10 to 1 or something). This is important because a marketing campaign of sorts has to happen as the season goes on to make it seem that you are worthy of playing for the championship.

Or you can just win the SEC championship in Atlanta, either one works.

But a school can be an elite school based on the standing of their school outside of football. Stanford is the best I think, unless some of the Ivies decide to go back to taking football seriously.

In any given class of high school senior you will find some quality athletes who can attend a school like Stanford, do well, and have the ability to do big things at the Division 1 level.

Everyone wants these kids, but they are also exactly the ones that are most likely to know what a Stanford degree can do for them.

I think there is enough to supply two or three schools like this. Besides Stanford I think you could pull the trick with Vandy and Georgia Tech in the Southeast. Maybe Texas in the Big 12 (they can do it other ways though).

Michigan in the Big 10 certainly. Maybe UDub in the Northwest (don't think that school has the mojo for some reason though).

No idea about Notre Dame. Not much of a grad program, and I honestly have no idea how many of their grads go on to bigger and better things. Certainly not the same cachet as Michigan and UChicago (which gave up football a long time ago) in the midwest to me.

Rutgers and Penn State could do it in the northeast maybe. Rutgers is kind of a sleeping giant football wise. Both schools have shown they can be successful not taking this approach.

Just saying that you can win with smart kids if you recruit nationally and sell kids on what a degree from your school can do for them.

Instead of gimmick uniforms and nightclub locker rooms like Oregon, you spend money on plane tickets to Atlanta, Chicago, Texas, Florida and what have you to find elite athletes that can do well in school and have an interest in it.

Helps to have a good home base though, like California. Or Georgia.

countenance said...

Yet, Stanford year in and year out is ranked at or near the top for their college sports programs overall.

Luke Lea said...

I am most impressed by Stanford's line on both sides of the ball, how strong they are and how they all manage to stay in position. They are a different kind of player than I am used to seeing -- whiter on average? I don't really know -- and totally shut down Oregon last year. I wouldn't be surprised if they do it again tonight.

It is occasionally alleged that there is a bit of discrimination against whites in college football, it being rightly assumed that black players, on average, are a cut above at the most elite levels. If this discrimination does indeed exist, even on a minor scale, could it be than Stanford is exploiting it?

I'm probably way off base here. Just a wild stab.

sunbeam said...

Luke Lea, I'm not going to cut and paste what you said, but I do think there is a bit of what you are saying going on.

It's kind of hard to find white kids in the SEC playing on the defensive line. I think there is a kind of a prejudice going on. Big, athletic white kids get steered to the offensive line, and just aren't considered for defense.

And I don't mind saying I think that coaches have a mindset of ... assumptions is all I can call it.

Let's say you play a three man front. What matters for a nose guard is that you are big, cannot be moved, and are willing to suffer.

I have no idea why coaches in the southeast won't put white kids in this position, but they don't seem to.

The only defensive line position I think that is really hard to fill with white players is right defensive end in a 4-3. You need outstanding speed and quickness to play it, and you really need a long frame at the same time (6'5" or 6'6" is ideal).

The rest of the positions, linebacker, strong and free safety, etc can be filled with white players.

There is one exception though, cornerback. This game has evolved to the point that if you can't cover so many yards in a certain amount of time, you can't play this position. No defensive scheme, wiliness, or amount of hard work will cover for it either.

Jason Sehorn was a lot more of a freak than any white player playing running back or wide receiver has been in the past 20 years.

Now that I've said that, I'd like to say that white people don't prioritize athletics the way black players do. I think that a lot of white kids who have the athleticism to play at the college level either play other sports, or never bother taking up a sport at all.

My opinion is that is it almost an anomaly if a black kid who can really play ball doesn't.

And just as an FYI, I could have discussed offense, but I didn't. Plus scheme counts a lot more. I am convinced you could run the Air Raid with white players if you were so inclined and do pretty well with it.

If you tried to run a spread scheme the way Urban Meyer does, not so much at certain positions.

It's still be a lot easier to find white kids who could play in a spread like Oregon, than it to find white cornerbacks.

el supremo said...

The fact that Stanford aims to be both a football powerhouse and a pipeline for future silicon valley innovators and a serious intellectual center is somewhat bizarre.

Is there anywhere else in the world where elite academic and pre-professional universities also aspire to field effectively semi-pro athletic teams? Especially in football, which requires both a large team and often one made up of very physically non-typical people (Making it harder to find people who meet the athletic requirements to be top tier players and also top tier students - the body type for crew or soccer is much easier to find and so lines up better with good students)

While its definitely a feature of contemporary American culture, it doesn't really make much sense. I understand the donor dynamics, building brand loyalty, etc, but Harvard / Yale / Princeton managed to rack up huge endowments over the past decades while fielding totally dismal teams.

Overseas, the elite private Japanese universities have what are basically glorified club athletics, and the only sport Cambridge and Oxford attach any publicity to is crew.

jody said...

must not make obvious joke about increasing our, ahem, personal endowments.

Unknown said...

El supremo not true

Oxford and Cambridge field strong rugby teams, with many past and future national representatives. Their cricket teams are also afforded first class status which is one below international.

Matthew said...

I'm with sunbeam's comment.

If you've got some brains and football skills you'd have to be almost an idiot not to make Stanford be your first choice (likewise with Duke and basketball). Why would any intelligent athlete pass up a free ride at Stanford? If you don't go pro you have the degree. If you do go pro you start out with a very large market of fans.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

I say don't give one red cent to Stanford football. Go Bears!

Anonymous said...

When I was at Stanford I enjoyed going to the football games a lot, in large part because they were among the few events in a Bay-Area university setting that evoked the spirit of Middle America.

Politics notwithstanding, there are surely lots of monied Stanford people who are conservative in your temperamental sense of having concentric tribal loyalties.

Personally, I could think of better things to write checks for than an athletic endowment, but as a temperamental conservative myself, I can sort of understand why people do it.

peterike said...

Meh. I'm already well endowed. Fat lot of good it does me.

Luke Lea said...

Guess I guessed right about Stanford last night. No wonder linemen go first in the NFL draft.

Phalluster said...

Stanford seems to have cornered the market on the homosexual male athlete. Kwame Harris, Jason Collins, and most recently Jonathan Martin... I think their program's success reflects their appeal to this historically marginalized demographic. The proximity to San Francisco can only help in recruiting these elite gays.

Anonymous said...

Where's Whiskey? If he watched that game, his common refrain about blacks being stronger and tougher than whites would be in for reevaluation.

The Stanford kids were stronger, tougher and smarter. Good old smashmouth football.