Sunday, September 14, 2014

USF Looking Into Whether Replacing NFL Stadium with Campus Stadium Could Cure Ills

Even though students have all but stopped attending USF football games and the USF community in Tampa is making its disgust with the lowly program known on social media, the school is forging ahead with plans to explore the costs and benefits of a possible on-campus football stadium.

USF plays 20 minutes from campus at the Buccaneers' NFL-quality Raymond James Stadium, while its nearest rival, UCF is enjoying successes from its new on-campus stadium.

However, media outlets so often miss the fact that UCF's stadium has burdened its students with a huge amount of debt, which every single kid who takes a class pays via student fees.  UCF is just about the only big college that relies on its students to balance its budget more than USF, which will tack $1800 onto most students' bills by the time they graduate, even if they don't attend a single sporting event.

Willie Taggert is right: an on-campus stadium adds to atmosphere.  But its also in incredible risk.

It will definitely increase student attendance by thousands - if not tens of thousands.

But last year, UCF's budget listed $4.6 million on stadium bonds, maintenance, and rentals.  USF spent $877,372.  So that nearly $3M annual difference would have to be made up by students and private donations - another area USF has been woeful.

This is a good opportunity to revisit the problems wanna-be football powerhouses face:  enormous costs with limited returns as well as the soon-to-be-growing cost of D-I football
So even though USF's attendance may climb with an on-campus stadium, the construction could also handcuff the school - and students - for decades.  Difficult issues like these are the exact reason fundraising expert Mark Harlan was recently named the school's new AD.  Good luck, Mark.


  1. I'm a UCF alum myself (class of 09). I've been to way more sporting events there after graduation than I ever did while I was a student there -- coincidentally, after I actually started making some more money.

    Here's the thing that stuck with me the most during my time there (I spent my first two years at FSU): Then, as now, UCF funneled a chunk of our tuition money toward the athletic program, ran at that time by the notorious Keith Tribble. And then, as now -- and as with many schools -- UCF still charged students at the door for football and bball games. So we ended up getting the double shaft on the athletics front, on top of rising tuition, decreased scholarship awards, and the back-breaking student loans.

    Good way to build up a rapport with your future alumni indeed. But since UCF has admitted so many students, to the point where it has the 2nd-largest undergraduate student body in the US, it might not matter how many graduates the school manages to alienate, both now and in the future.

    1. Worth noting that USF does not charge admission to sporting events. However, if they built a new stadium, who knows if that would change.

  2. Calling an on campus stadium a "risk" is a bit of a stretch. Especially since the thrust of your article is that they will likely use long term debt financing and force students to pay the debt service. Where is the risk in that?

    It's hard to think of a major college sports venue for which some on the faculty failed to make all sorts of dire predictions, from significant downgrades of the college's bond ratings, to destroying research, siphoning funds from libraries, and ultimately causing tuition/fee increases so large that the student body begins to shrink. It is very difficult to think of cases where these dire predictions came true.

    Additionally, your math is off significantly. If the Bulls currently pay around $900 K/yr for football, and a new stadium would cost about $3 Million more. Except that, the Bulls lease with the Bucs tilts nearly all the in-stadium and game/day revenue to the Bucs. In an on campus stadium, USF would capture parking, concessions, and all the ad revenue, plus naming rights, etc.
    Additionally, on campus stadium could be leased to other groups with THOSE revenues also going to USF. We aren't quite to your $3 Mil gap, but we have chipped away at it. Add in the benefits of more student participation / attendance as well as bringing more people onto campus on Saturdays, and it starts to look like a no brainer decision for USF.