Thursday, June 12, 2008


Money talks with college football `guarantees'.

DALLAS -- Monetary guarantees for non-conference home football games are rising at "a fairly alarming rate," according to a top athletics director, and in some cases are approaching or topping $1 million.

Ohio State, for example, will pay $1.4 million for Navy to come to Columbus in 2009. Wisconsin will pay "just under $1 million" for each of two games against Northern Illinois, Badgers athletics director Barry Alvarez said. Texas is paying $900,000 to Florida Atlantic this fall. Arkansas is paying Tulsa $850,000.

"I would say it has been building over the last five to eight years, and I think what really triggered upward mobility of guarantees was the addition of the 12th game (in 2006)," Kevin White, new AD at Duke and president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, said at the group's convention in Dallas. "I think it's just subject to whatever the market will bear. There is no way to legislate against this kind of escalation."

Major powers pay guarantees instead of giving a return game because they take in several million dollars for each home game, not to mention the impact in their towns from a crowd of 90,000 or 100,000. It also gives them a competitive advantage that could have implications for Bowl Championship Series spots.

Less-successful teams or those with smaller athletic budgets see guarantee games as a way to build their coffers and give players the chance to face a major power in a big stadium.

"You talk about coaches' salaries skyrocketing," Georgia AD Damon Evans said. "Now the guarantees are just skyrocketing."

Alvarez said Wisconsin paid no more than $300,000 for a guarantee in 2000.

Ohio State's Gene Smith calls Navy a "special situation." The payout came because another school pulled out of a deal with Ohio State, leaving a hole in its schedule. But Navy had to buy its way out of a contract to do it, and Ohio State's guarantee will in effect cover the Midshipmen's buyout.

"We've always wanted to play a service academy," Smith said. "This is our opportunity and we can afford it."

(Contributing: Steve Wieberg, Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY)