Blood donors are literally the lifeblood of their recipients and college athletics donors are figuratively the lifeblood of the programs they support.
Blood recipients are often given the most precious gift in this mortal world outside of football - life, and athletic programs are given handsome, asinine amounts of capital to fund games for big children who work for free.
College athletics at the major, BCS, football-primary schools is massive business. It's dirty business much (all) of the time. We're talking business that is managed by athletic directors and university presidents. While noble in job description and almost entirely in integrity, these academic figureheads are in the sauna and on the golf course making deals with bowl and conference commissioners. The dollars at stake are huge. The mere survival of said figureheads' livelihoods causes otherwise upstanding individuals to make grayish deals with well-coifed vultures all under the guise of "amateur student-athletics."
The cartel's stakes are primarily in football and men's basketball, obviously. The silver lining and justification in an otherwise ethically dicey business model is thousands of girls (and men in small programs) are able to go to college and play the sport they personally love thanks to the revenues derived from the model laid out above.
Here, we'll focus on the real revenue juggernaut - football. Apologies to our Kentucky reader(s?). College programs that are football-centric generate revenue from a handful of sources - most or all of them obvious:
- Tickets. Fill your football stadium with fans willing to pay a nice price along with some luxury box folks and you're on your way.
- Sponsorship. "Today's game is brought to you by title sponsor and supporter of all [insert school] athletics (read: football), McDonald's". You'll have to wine and dine these corporate stooges, but they write checks of funny money in return for watered down mixed drinks and autographs for their kids.
- TV. Your conference has revenue sharing and just negotiated a flush deal Tiers I-III? Congratulations. This is called annual "mailbox money" or what Ted Danson calls "Cheers". These are long-term deals that are a consistent, shining star on your balance sheet. Oh, and if it is time to renew the deals, they only get more lucrative.
- Bowls. If you're in a competitive conference, a handful of your teams will go bowling every year - some to very lucrative destinations. You get to split a good portion of the revenues! Don't have to cut field hockey after all! And the wrestlers get to clean their singlets!
- Other stuff. SWAG - hats, jerseys, etc.
I'm here to talk to you about one of the more compelling revenue sources in college sports - donors. Can you imagine pro sports having donors? Yes, they have idiotic taxes levied on deranged communities that think that 10 football home dates a year generate enough small business revenue to warrant subsidizing a billionaire owner's playground. HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS? But I digress. Donors play a huge, unique role in an athletic department's budget. Athletic departments dedicate a full time staff ranging from a handful of people to dozens that are tasked with getting alumni and fans to part with their money for the betterment of [insert school] and hopefully kicking the rival's ass.
If you're reading this, there is a good chance you went to college (high level shit and readership) and have been solicited by your school for funds. That college caught you in the formative state of 18-22 years of age. I'm an Aggie. I will always be an Aggie. I am also from Colorado. While I really like the Denver Broncos, I will never be a Bronco. This is part of why I think college sports are far superior. We have such deeper investment. In big time college football, they have to prey on this investment by way of your pocketbook. The people in your school's athletic department are managing relationships with a WIDE range of outside stakeholders with an even wider range of net worth.
This piece is intentionally generic. The fictional characters could be donors at any school of your choosing. With all that said, let's meet your athletic department's prized donors!
William Tucker Blackburn, IV (fourth generation legacy)
Occupation: Analyst (at least he tells people this at tailgates), Bank of America
Income: $42,000 (tells people WAY more)
Car: 1997 Tahoe filled with koozies and a beer pong table
Where he gets his football news: rivals.com and "arm around the starting LB at parties"
Where he tailgates: quad - fraternity section. "look for the Tahoe with the rebel flag and shitty grill"
Annual Donation: $200. Heard his fraternity brothers were donating $100, wanted to show them up.
Seat location: Dad's luxury box or still hanging around the student section
Why he is important: This little shit is going to fall into some money, and hopefully, donate to the school that taught him valuable lessons in beer funneling and passing Geology while thinking it is the study of state and global capitals.
Why he gives your AD headaches: keeps your most prized football players pleased (girls) and in trouble (drugs) all at the same time
Favorite football moment: hooking up with that Zeta skank in Connor's dad's box at halftime of the State game. Oh yeah, and drinking that luxury box dry of liquor by the end of the third quarter. UP TOP.
Occupation: in the NFL (or out) depending on time of the year or time of career
Car: leased Escalade replete with 15 televisions
Where he gets his football news: texts from teammates that didn't make the league
Where he tailgates: xbox in the old player lounge
Income: very negative or a few million
Annual Donation: this is more of a one-time donation of flat screens and xbox's to the players' lounge. All the ex wants in return is his jersey hung and to chill with the guys after the win.
Seat location: sideline pass
Why he is important: attracts recruits. Still has a lot of cache. If sober, might be a potential pregame speaker.
Why he gives your AD headaches: never graduated, has some legal "blemishes"
Favorite football moment: winning that game that saved the AD and coach's job
Chet Whitley (local businessman)
Occupation: owns the locals' favorite restaurant - Chet's - known for its stiff drinks, awful wings, and hosting your head coach's weekly radio show
Car: Chevy Avalanche in the team's color
Income: "Who's askin'?" ($249,000 or $2,000,000 depending on if Chet is talking to Obama or Romney or the IRS)
Where he gets his football news: backing the Avalanche up to the practice facility.
Where he tailgates: great slot. Totally overspent to be 900 yards from the south endzone. It only costs $3000 per season.
Annual Donation: $10,000 for the right to host the radio show and glad hand at the spring game
Seat location: 15 yard line - 60 rows up, but is given a primo parking pass for tailgating
Why he is important: he rallies the local community that didn't go to your school. Also, he doesn't care when the coach and football players grope his waitresses. He's even given coach a ride home after coach donated his liver to Jack in Tennessee.
Why he gives your AD headaches: Chet thinks the football team wouldn't exist without him. He also has a stepson - Dale - that he wants on the team. Dale couldn't get into college, let alone walkon to the team.
Favorite football moment: Some obscure September game from 15 years ago. Don't worry, Chet will tell you every. Single. Detail. Of the game.
Boyd Callahan (regional "big shot")
Occupation: he simply says "oil"
Car: Range Rover Sport
Income: -$2mm to $2mm depending on the Saudi's or that golf game in Midland.
Where he gets his football news: "private" newsletters
Where he tailgates: Same place his daddy always tailgated (before integration)
Annual Donation: $150,000
Seat location: 50 yard line in-game, club level for drinks and schmoozing at the half
Why he is important: donates way more money than he should budget for
Why he gives your AD headaches: constantly refers to himself as "Big Cigar". Gets practice reports that he swindles to internet lackeys. The lackeys love this stuff despite never realizing that all the reports are unabashedly, inaccurately positive.
Favorite football moment: doing a Rumpleminz shot with the ex-player listed above and telling all his buds that he and ex-player are tight and are now going to Cabo.
Jim Porter (actual "big shot")
Occupation: founded the energy company Boyd works for
Income: "none of your damn business"
Where he gets his football news: only Wall Street Journal articles on concussions
Where he tailgates: "tailgating is for the poor, the apes, and the poor apes."
Car: Ford F250 King Ranch
Annual Donation: "none of your damn business" (read: $50 and a cease and desist)
Seat location: "I'd rather work than watch 19 year old shitheads on a Saturday."
Why he is important: This guy is an alum and richer than most countries. If ONLY he'd chip in some money for the new indoor facility. Maybe if the AD gets him the right scotch for Christmas........?
Why he gives your AD headaches: he's cheaper than Scrooge, but wants a luxury box when the team makes a BCS bowl
Favorite football moment: the wishbone
Occupation: became a billionaire in the most sickening way - trial lawyer
Income: depends what company he can screw over that quarter
Where he gets his football news: "any app that interrupts an ambulance feed is good by me"
Where he tailgates: emergency rooms
Car: whatever Coach [x] is driving
Annual Donation: $2,000,000 + whatever's in the ash tray
Seat location: luxury box/sideline
Why he is important: gave a one-time donation large enough to make the AD squeal and name the damn field after him
Why he gives your AD headaches: money is nice, but naming the field after a trial lawyer? F it - MONEY!
Favorite football moment: it's coming in the form of an insane concussion lawsuit against the NCAA and the NFL. Ex-player listed above has already been acquired as a client.
T. Barbour Patterson (billionaire)
Occupation: Renaissance man (read: no one really knows). Might have blackmail on a Rockefeller.
Income: "I made more in the time laughing at the question than you've seen in your damn life."
Where he gets his football news: pays hundreds of dollars for info we all got yesterday
Where he tailgates: on your lap if he wants
Annual Donation: he only operates in semi-regular donations of $50mm and up.
Seat location: it's his damn stadium. Wherever he wants. Even if that means a toilet in the opponent's redzone (he tried it).
Why he is important: Well, he has a nice personality and it is great to have a man of his caliber around the progr... hahahaha just messing with you. It's because he is richer than the European Union.
Why he gives your AD headaches: if he woke up with a headache, he could have your AD fired in half a phone call. Also thinks hiring Jimmy Johnson is a good idea.
Favorite football moment: taking his company public during a bowl season tailgate
Gertrude Gainey (wealthy widow)
Occupation: being the sweetest lady in [insert college town]
Income: "well, I don't like talking about money. I just like seeing those kids have fun." (read: richer than she has any idea)
Where she gets her football news: the movie "Rudy"
Where she tailgates: church
Car: gets ride from her daughter Sandy
Annual Donation: "well, dear, I don't know..." $200,000 ONLY for use on women's sports
Seat location: doesn't go to football games, but hasn't missed a women's basketball game in 35 years
Why she is important: give and take. This is nice P.R. and your women's coaches will love her.
Why she gives your AD headaches: she thinks nights at Olive Garden are "fancy living" when your AD knows she has enough money to give the football team a new practice facility
Favorite football moment: Women's Final Four in Indianapolis
Bob Edward Lee (deceased)
Age: kicked the bucket 10 years ago. RIP.
Occupation: basketball arena is named after him
Income: made sure all his wealth went to [insert school] instead of his drug-addled offspring. (note: offspring don't like [insert school])
Where he gets his football news: idiots who visit his grave and tell him of wins over UAB
Where he tailgates: can you tail a tombstone?
Car: team bus (hearse)
Annual Donation: a trust has been set up. It's too lucrative to mention.
Seat location: ashes rest under the north end zone (or at least that's what was told to his family)
Why he is important: without sounding cryptic, the best money is when it comes in Brinks Trucks without living people and emotions attached.
Why he gives your AD headaches: No headaches. This is the best donor in the AD's rolodex.
Favorite football moment: being on the hiring committee for Bear Bryant.