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MCDANNALD: Stop dreaming about football, focus on what you have

Tracy McDannald, Sports Columnist

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Long Beach State does not need a football team, so enough with the referendums and illogical pipe dreams that would only hurt every other sport at the school.

I’m looking at you, Jason Aula, Chris O’Brien and everybody behind the group Bring Back 49er Football. You guys probably mean well, but stop dreaming.

Sorry, but LBSU would not be “the only game in town for college football,” as O’Brien said in Wednesday’s Daily 49er article. I guess two little schools named USC and UCLA slipped those supporters’ minds. That is where all the premier local high school talent would still go if they don’t leave the state entirely and play for some powerhouse in the South.

And don’t forget, a football team would not automatically be granted Division I status.

Look, I love football — but the college game is about as honest as professional wrestling.

Just look at Texas Christian University, which completed an undefeated campaign this past college football season … but somehow was not included in the championship game? Oh, that’s right, because winning every game does not mean you are among the best in the nation.

Wait, what?

Yeah, because there is this enigma in the role of Vince McMahon called the Bowl Championship Series that determines its national championship game participants from select powerhouse conferences via computerized formulas instead of a playoff system. I know it sounds like a horrible movie plot, but it’s real.

And that’s just part of the obvious problem. The most glaring issue comes down to money.

It has been tough enough for The Beach to financially support the teams it already fields. Until it started recently winning games, the men’s basketball team had a hard time filling the approximately 5,000-seat capacity Walter Pyramid.

For a building that has been around since 1994, two of the top three all-time attendance marks have come in past three months.

Attendance matters in football, depending on whether you want to compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision or the Football Championship Subdivision. In other words, whether you want to play on the big stage for a mythical national championship, or have a playoff system but receive no recognition.

According to the NCAA: “Football Bowl Subdivision teams have to meet minimum attendance requirements (average 15,000 people in actual or paid attendance per home game), which must be met once in a rolling two-year period. NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams do not need to meet minimum attendance requirements.”

How is an upstart football team — that will have a hard time looking competitive, let alone win — supposed to attract fans? And more importantly, where the hell is a football team going to play without a stadium?

Instead of sucking the athletic department dry of its resources, how about shifting the support — and more importantly, money — to a men’s basketball program with legitimate NCAA Tournament hopes; or a Big West Conference champion women’s soccer team in need of a real stadium with lights instead of that glorified patch of grass called George Allen Field; or a women’s volleyball program that has accounted for three of the school’s four national championships.

I think you get the idea; there is plenty of potential with the teams already in place. A football team would only hog the athletic department budget, and most schools with football programs do not generate a net gain.

According to a USA Today database, Florida — the 2008-09 BCS champion — spent $102 million on athletics that year while generating just $96.8 million in revenue. I’m not a math major, but that’s a $5.2 million loss for the school with the top football program that season, right?

As for LBSU in that same period, the athletic department spent $13,489,661 and generated $13,496,223. While that’s not an amazing profit by any means, at least the athletic department did not have a football team it clearly cannot fund.

According to Mike Robles, an assistant athletic director in charge of media relations at UC Davis, the Aggies’ operating expenses for football were around $2.2 million in December 2009 and have gone up since then. He said the initial start-up costs for a Division I FCS team without an existing infrastructure would be higher.

Davis, which competes in the FCS, spent $24,960,557 on athletics and generated $24,918,305 in 2008-09.

“Football is your most expensive sport, just by sheer numbers,” Robles said.

Of the operating revenue in 2008-09, LBSU received $1.6 million (11.88 percent of its budget) from student fees while UC Davis collected $15.6 million (62.88 percent).

LBSU athletics needs a student fee increase — maybe not now, but eventually — to level the playing field, but not for a cash-guzzling football team that will never have a chance to compete on the sport’s biggest stage.


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