Wednesday, June 22, 2011

At least one industry is growing—college football

image The housing industry sucks. The 2010 gulf oil spill and fool-headed drilling moratorium has the oil & gas industry sucking wind. Farms have been devastated by droughts, floods and tornadoes. Wal-Mart is even struggling (not much, but play along with me here).

But there’s one industry where growth is the name of the game—college football. The Associated Press reported today that over the next four years, no fewer than 25 new college football programs will stand up brand new teams.

If NFL players and owners don’t get their collective asses in gear and agree to a new labor agreement that avoids disrupting the 2011 season, college football may well take over as the #1 sport in the U.S. None of the new startups are going to be instant profit centers for their [ahem] non-profit schools and athletic departments. But they will generate some additional revenue in a budgetary environment that almost demands developing a football program.

Smaller college presidents and athletic directors aren’t stupid. They see even the mid-majors getting shots at big time paydays from serving as Opening Day and Homecoming Victims. There’s TV money to be made. Maybe even a small bowl trip with more TV exposure. This is business, and it may be the only one with any growth to show in this economic environment.

The model can work. Starting from near nothing and slowly building a successful major college football program isn’t easy, but Florida State, Virginia Tech and Southern Miss all grew their programs to a reasonable degree of success by regularly traveling to big boy campuses. They played, got their butts kicked and took their black eyes and half million bucks back home. If Southern Miss played Ole Miss in the regular season, the game would be a pick’em even in Ole Miss’ best years. Florida State has a trophy case full of hardware and Virginia Tech is regularly regarded as one of the top programs in the country. Those programs are a testament to the truth of the adage “build it, and they will come.”

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