The idea comes up at each Pac-10 meeting, but USC and UCLA — the schools with the most money to lose — aren't big fans.
As athletic directors around the Pac-10 grapple with ways to balance increasingly tight budgets in increasingly tough economic times, Washington’s Scott Woodward is among those favoring a somewhat contentious idea — revenue sharing.
“I think it would be in the best interest of the league,” he says.
Sports fans might be familiar with the concept from the NFL, where teams pool their revenues and disburse it evenly, long touted as the reason a franchise such as the Green Bay Packers can survive.
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In college athletics, where each conference makes its own policies on such matters, there are varying methods for distributing money.
The Big Ten, Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences have what is essentially full revenue sharing. For the major revenue-producing sports such as football and men’s basketball, TV revenue, gate receipts and postseason income is pooled and shared evenly, minus expenses for things such as travel to bowl games.
Woodward, who came to Washington from Louisiana State, says “that’s why a school like Mississippi State can compete with LSU.”
The Pac-10 has what commissioner Tom Hansen refers to as “hybrid” revenue sharing. The conference shares postseason revenue for football bowl games and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
However, football TV revenue — one of the biggest moneymakers for schools each year — is not shared. Instead, the participating team or teams keep the lion’s share of the money, essentially splitting 59.5 percent. The other 40 percent is shared evenly among the other teams. For non-conference games, the participating team keeps its entire share of the money.
That results in some wide disparity in incomes each year.
In 2008, for instance, USC took home $6,469,584 in revenue from TV games that were part of the regular Pac-10 package (the totals do not include money for local TV games, which pay out far less). At the bottom of the scale, Washington State took home $3,029,526.
But success on the field doesn’t solely determine TV income. Washington, despite an 0-12 season, was fourth at $4,740,518, a testament in part to its rabid following and large media market. Oregon, despite finishing second and winning 10 games, was seventh at $3,967,724, in part due to being in a smaller market.
The total TV revenue for the conference was $43,250,000, meaning if the money was split evenly, each school would get $4,325,000. For smaller-market schools, that extra million or so every year would make a huge difference.
Washington would typically be a school that would give money back under such a plan. But Woodward says, “I want to look at what is best for the conference long-term even if in the short-term it’s not to our benefit.”
Woodward, however, acknowledges the plan could also work in UW’s favor.
Woodward also wants a revenue-sharing plan that would do away with the “rivalry game” exception to how the conference disperses gate receipts.
In a policy that dates to 1985, visiting teams are guaranteed a minimum of $125,000 and a maximum of $200,000 from the ticket receipts for conference games, the home team keeping the rest. Almost every game results in each school writing its opponent a check for $200,000, making it a virtual wash for everybody.
The lone exception to that is for rivalry games, which was at the heart of the recent controversy over whether to move the Apple Cup to Qwest Field.
For each school’s rivalry game, the gate is split evenly. For the other four rivalry games in the Pac-10 that results in a pretty even distribution. However, due mostly to the differing size of the two stadiums, there’s a wide disparity in the checks UW and WSU send each other for the Apple Cup.
For the past two Apple Cups in Pullman, Washington has received $394,360 (2006) and $443,371 (2008), according to UW officials. WSU, meanwhile, has received $1,092,501 (2005) and $1,094,630 (2007) for the past two Apple Cups in Seattle.
Woodward says the reality of that policy is that UW is the only Pac-10 school sharing a significant portion of its football revenue with another school. He says it would be more fair and healthier for the conference to simply share it all.
Hansen said that issue has been raised at nearly every Pac-10 meeting ever held.
“Of all the prickly issues that are discussed within the conference, revenue sharing is always the most prickly,” he said. “The heart and soul of these programs is their financial viability, and right now it’s tough and everybody is very, very concerned about every dollar that is on the table.”
Changing the policy would take eight votes. Hansen, who is retiring July 1, said USC and UCLA, as the two schools with the most to lose, would be unlikely to ever vote for it.
And while Woodward is hopeful his colleagues will eventually come around on the issue, Hansen indicates it’s unlikely to happen soon.
“I think everybody in our conference is thoughtful and concerned about the good of the whole,” Hansen said. “But right now in this economic climate, no one is going to give up dollars to others if they can possibly help it.”
|Share the wealth?|
|Some are pushing for an even split of the Pac-10’s football revenue, including money made from games played on television. Following is a look at how much each school made — and kept — from 2008 TV games in the conference’s regional and national package. (Schools can also make local deals for games not picked as part of the conference’s package. Those games pay far less):|
|Team||2008 TV revenue|