College football is the sport of kings during the fall, not only on campuses but in every city with football fans. Few professional football teams, or professional teams of any sport, have such a devoted following.
It is the devotion of the fans and alumni who continue to give money and buy tickets, even when the team is a disaster, that make the sport great. But it is this devotion that makes investing in college athletics, especially football, so risky.
K-State lost to Rutgers in the Texas Bowl after the 2006 season. K-State finished with a record of 6-7, while Rutgers finished 11-2. Rutgers’ win was made sweeter by the fact that there are relatively few significant college football programs in the Northeast. Boston College, Syracuse and Connecticut are Rutgers’ biggest competition in the region — not including Pennsylvania — for media attention.
In a market with so much money and potential fans, Rutgers could capitalize on its 2006 season by improving the entire program. A better team and better stadium would mean more fans and more revenue. So Rutgers began fundraising for a $102 million stadium expansion, according to the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger.
Things went downhill in 2007 for the Scarlet Knights, when the team went 8-5. A record like that isn’t going to pay the bills in a market as hostile and demanding as New York/New Jersey and the surrounding area. So 2008 became a redemption year for Rutgers, except it hasn’t gone so well.
Rutgers has lost its first two games of 2008, and the team just doesn’t look like a Big East Conference contender nor a bowl team. Now there is a mediocre team playing in a lavish arena, with skeptical donators and boosters sitting in the stands.
K-State should heed the warnings coming from New Jersey, and fight knee-jerk urges to throw money at successful/rebuilding programs.
Coach Ron Prince’s contract extension will be the cornerstone in measuring K-State’s reaction to an improving Big 12 North. The 2007-08 men’s basketball season is in the history books, but financial decisions affecting the teams should be made with caution.
Neither Manhattan, nor Kansas, has the market of the Northeast, but there are many other college football teams in our region.
If K-State starts to lose the fans’ interests, those fans can easily root for Nebraska or Missouri or “You Know Who.” Without caution and clear decision making, K-State could scare away its fans and demote itself to what it was 20 years ago.
I am optimistic, though. With all of the Rhodes and Truman scholars here, there has to be a genius or two in the athletic department.
Owen Kennedy is a senior in management. Please send comments to email@example.com.