May 18, 2020 8:09 AM

Bye buy games? G5 could lose millions in Power 5 payouts

Posted May 18, 2020 8:09 AM

In 2018, with his school facing the possibility of cutting staff to make up a huge shortfall in state funding, Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier added a football game at Florida State to the Huskies’ schedule.

The road trip came with a $1.6 million payout to NIU.

“Florida State, essentially, saved people’s jobs,” Frazier said.

Guarantee games, or buy games, are essential to many athletic departments that field Division I football teams but have far smaller budgets than those at Power Five schools. Even before the pandemic spawned a financial crisis, most Group of Five schools were using university funds and student fees to help pay for athletics.

This season, 39 major college football schools have scheduled a total of 49 buy games worth an estimated $65 million. If coronavirus disruptions cause Power Five teams to play more or only conference games, it could leave huge holes in the athletic budgets of schools already stretched thin.

The largest payout for a one-game deal with no return this season reportedly is $1.9 million by Auburn to Massachusetts. UMass has a $10 million budget for football. The Auburn game scheduled for Nov. 14 offsets much of the expenses for the rest of the Minutemen’s schedule, athletic director Ryan Bamford said.

“If we lose that and we’re playing 11 other games, then it’s a major impact,” he said.

The pandemic has made everything about the coming college football season uncertain. There are some promising signs as states lift restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus. University presidents are sending hopeful messages to students about plans to have campuses up and running in the fall. All plans are tentative these days.

Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford said this past week the league is looking at various scenarios from an abbreviated football season to none at all. If the season is cut short or rearranged, conferences will prioritize playing conference games, which usually have more value both financially and competitively.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, whose school is a football independent, has encouraged conference commissioners to consider abbreviated schedules that preserve traditional nonconference rivalries (Florida-Florida State, for example) and high-profile games (such as Notre Dame-Wisconsin at Lambeau Field). That could protect Notre Dame, which has a five-game scheduling agreement with the ACC and traditional rivalries against USC, Stanford and Navy.

But if the wealthy Power Five conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — close ranks, Group of Five schools will be out millions.

New Mexico State AD Mario Moccia also leads an independent football program, but the situation has no similarities to Notre Dame. New Mexico State is scheduled to make $2.75 million for road trips to UCLA and Florida this season.

“There is no modeling or ability to cut that could make up for that revenue so those games are critical to our entire operation,” Moccia told the Las Cuces Sun-News.

Kent State, from the Mid-American Conference, has three guarantee games this season with Alabama, Kentucky and Penn State worth $4.95 million.

The 12 MAC teams are playing 18 guarantee games this season, including Akron going to Clemson for $1.1 million. Earlier this week, Akron announced it was dropping three sports programs as a cost-cutting move because of shrinking revenue across the university due to the pandemic.

On Friday, Bowling Green dropped baseball. The Falcons have road trips scheduled to Ohio State and Illinois worth $2.2 million this season.

NIU, which has been one of the most successful programs in the MAC for more than a decade, has just one guarantee game among four out of conference this year: A $1.1 million deal to play at Iowa on Sept. 26.

“Any time you talk about half a million, a million, a million and a half, two million, and you’re talking about the budget our size here, which is just over $30 million, you’re talking about a significant dollar amount of projected revenue that has to be made up,” Frazier said.

If there is an emphasis on conferences games, the losses would trickle down to the FCS level. There are 114 FCS-FBC matchups this season, including many involving Group of Five schools. The payouts to FCS schools from FBS range from $200,000 to $750,000.

Arkansas State is getting $1.8 million to play at Michigan on Sept. 19. That’s easy for Michigan to cover when it’s playing in front of 110,000 fans. But what about if it’s just friends and family in the Big House?

Arkansas State athletic director Terry Mohajir said his budget would take a hit if the Red Wolves of the Sun Belt can’t play at Michigan.

“But I would think that as much as it hurts us, it’s going to hurt them, too,” Mohajir said. “I would imagine they make $15 to $17 million per home game. Our game against them is not as important to winning the Big Ten. But our game from a revenue standpoint is as important if they play Purdue.”

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May 18, 2020 8:09 AM
Monday Sports Headlines

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick was the winner as NASCAR resumed its Cup schedule following a 10-week layoff caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Harvick took the lead from Alex Bowman on a late restart and pulled away over the final 30 laps in front of empty stands at Darlington Raceway. Bowman finished second, followed by Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. The event was run without fans and with an emphasis on masks and social distancing.

JUNO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Rory McIlroy delivered the money shot in the TaylorMade Driving Relief exhibition that raised $5 million for COVID-19 relief funds. With the match down to a closest-to-the-pin contest after regulation, McIlroy barely stayed on the shelf left of the pin, measured at 13 feet to beat Matthew Wolff’s attempt by five feet. The final carryover gave McIlroy and Dustin Johnson $1.85 million for the American Nurses Foundation.

HOUSTON (AP) — A 5-year-old boy and a woman drowned in the backyard pool of former major league outfielder Carl Crawford's Houston home Saturday afternoon. That’s according to reports from The Houston Chronicle. The paper says Houston police were called for a reported drowning at a north Houston home that property and business records list as belonging to Crawford. A police spokeswoman told the Chronicle that the boy was swimming in the pool when he began to have trouble breathing, and the woman jumped in to save him.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — New York Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker and Seattle corner Quinton Dunbar have been released from Broward County Jail after surrendering Saturday on felony charges stemming from a cookout at a Miramar home. Baker posted a $200,000 bond and is charged with four counts of armed robbery with a firearm and four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. Dunbar posted a $100,000 bond and is charged with four felony counts of armed robbery.

HOUSTON (AP) — Authorities say Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Ed Oliver was arrested during a traffic stop in the Houston area and charged with drunken driving and illegally carrying a handgun. Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies pulled Oliver over Saturday night after receiving reports of someone driving recklessly in a construction area. The Montgomery County Constables say that Oliver failed a sobriety test and deputies found a small caliber pistol in his truck.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SPORTS

Cal. State teams could play football as scheduled

UNDATED (AP) — The California State University system’s plan for a mostly virtual fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t necessarily close the door on football at its three schools that play in the far-flung Mountain West Conference.

San Diego State athletic director John David Wicker says the school is looking at having football players return to campus no earlier than July 7 and is making plans to play the season as scheduled. SDSU is proceeding because it envisions a fall schedule that includes a hybrid model of classes, in which some students will be on campus for in-person instruction such as labs while other classes will be held online.

The Mountain West also includes Cal. State schools Fresno State and San Jose State. Fresno State AD Terry Tumey says it’s too early to determine when athletes could return to campus, adding that the safety of the community, the players and support staff is paramount. San Jose State said in a statement that it continues to work on timelines.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said recently that campuses must be open “in one fashion or another” in order to have sports this fall.

In other developments related to the coronavirus pandemic:

— Former major league manager and infielder Art Howe has been released from a Houston hospital after a stay in intensive care because of the pandemic. The 73-year-old Howe will be isolated at home for another week or two.

— English Premier League clubs will try on Monday to agree on protocols to allow a return to training during the pandemic. Teams already have started checking players and coaches for COVID-19, with a total of 1,600 weekly tests anticipated across the 20 clubs in England's top division. Monday’s meeting comes two days after the German league resumed its schedule.

— All Spanish league clubs can begin group training sessions this week despite stricter lockdown restrictions remaining in place in parts of Spain because of the pandemic. Cities like Madrid and Barcelona have not been allowed to loosen confinement measures like most of the country, but teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona have been given the go-ahead to move into the second phase of training. The league has told clubs that on Monday all players can start small group sessions regardless of the lockdown phase in their regions. Players had only been allowed to train individually across Spain until now.

— Park Hyun-kung shot a final-round 67 to win the Korean Ladies Professional Golf tournament by one stroke. Park had a four-round total of 17-under 271 on the Lakewood Country Club course. Lim Hee-jeong carried a three-stroke lead into the final round before falling into a second-place tie with Bae Seon-woo. The tournament was played without fans and with players using hand sanitizers and following social-distancing rules. Caddies wore masks but players were allowed to play without them.

— Russia has relaxed border restrictions for athletes and coaches in a move that will help soccer to restart in the country next month. Russia has barred most foreign arrivals since March in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Now the government says athletes and coaches will be allowed in if they have a contract with a Russian sports team or organization. They will have to spend 14 days in isolation on arrival and will be observed by doctors.

MLB-CRAWFORD-POOL DROWNING

Two drown at property owned by ex-outfielder Carl Crawford

HOUSTON (AP) — A 5-year-old boy and a woman drowned in the backyard pool of former LA Dodger player Carl Crawford's Houston home Saturday afternoon. That’s according to reports from The Houston Chronicle.

The paper says Houston police were called for a reported drowning at a north Houston home that property and business records list as belonging to Crawford. A police spokeswoman told the Chronicle that the boy was swimming in the pool when he began to have trouble breathing, and the woman jumped in to save him. Both were unresponsive when police arrived and later declared dead at a hospital, according to the spokeswoman.

No further details were immediately available.

The police department did not immediately respond Sunday to a request for comment from The Associated Press. Contact information for Crawford could not be immediately found.

NFL-ROBBERY

Baker, Dunbar released after posting bond

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — NFL cornerbacks DeAndre Baker and Quinton Dunbar were released from Broward County Jail on Sunday, a day after surrendering on felony charges stemming from a cookout at a Miramar home.

Baker posted a $200,000 bond after a Zoom hearing with Broward Circuit Judge Michael Davis. The New York Giants defender is charged with four counts of armed robbery with a firearm and four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.

Dunbar is charged with four felony counts of armed robbery. The Seattle Seahawks player posted a $100,000 bond.

The warrant said Baker and Dunbar were attending the cookout Wednesday night when a fight broke out and Baker pulled out a handgun. Witnesses told investigators that Baker, Dunbar and two other men began robbing people of thousands of dollars, watches and other valuables.

The players’ lawyers say they have witnesses who will clear them.

NFL-BILLS PLAYER ARRESTED

Buffalo Bills player charged with drunken driving in Texas

HOUSTON (AP) — Authorities say Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Ed Oliver was arrested during a traffic stop in the Houston area and charged with drunken driving and illegally carrying a handgun.

Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies pulled Oliver over Saturday night after receiving reports of someone driving recklessly in a construction area. Oliver failed a sobriety test and deputies found a small caliber pistol in his truck, according to a statement from the Montgomery County Constables.

The Houston Chronicle reports that he was released from jail after posting bond.

Oliver was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2019 draft.

SOUTH KOREA-SEX DOLLS

Korean soccer club apologizes for putting sex dolls in seats

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean professional soccer club has apologized after being accused of putting sex dolls in empty stands during a match in Seoul.

In a statement, FC Seoul expresses “sincere remorse” over the controversy. It insists that it used mannequins, not sex dolls, to mimic a crowd at the Seoul World Cup stadium.

The country’s top-flight K-League returned to action on May 8 without spectators following weeks-long postponements because of the coronavirus.

Professional baseball has resumed under similar conditions. The leagues plan to ban fans until the risks of infections are meaningfully lowered.