Cyber-side Chat No. 39
July 15, 2004
TO: Fans, Friends, and Supporters of LSU Athletics
FROM: Skip Bertman, LSU Athletics Director
As we move closer to another football season — this will be the 111th in the history of Tiger football — some of the most frequently asked questions are about televised games.
Because we at LSU experience football as an event and not just a game, there are plans to be made, tailgate times to be communicated to friends and relatives, and travel arrangements to be coordinated.
Let me begin by saying I am as committed as any die-hard Tiger fan to seeing our games played at night. It is a tradition at Tiger Stadium and one that the fans and I hold dear. We will always do everything possible to keep our football games at night.
But there are some realities about the current state of college football that must be understood. As a member of the Southeastern Conference, we have committed our television rights to the SEC office so that the SEC can negotiate contracts with major television networks for all 12 league schools.
During the last 20 years, the SEC has successfully negotiated the most lucrative television contracts in the history of college sports. The revenues derived from these contracts are distributed among the member schools, along with revenues derived from bowl games and other championship events.
It is partly because of the revenue distribution from the SEC office that SEC schools are so competitive in so many sports. It is a major reason that LSU Athletics is a financially self-sufficient program, funding 20 varsity sports with the use of no state tax dollars or mandated student fees.
For the 2003-04 athletic year, EACH of the SEC schools received approximately $9.1 million from the league office, derived from the following categories (amounts are approximates):
- $3.3 million from football regular season games on CBS, ESPN, Fox Sports or TBS
- $515,000 from football regular season games on JP Sports
- $2.81 million from post-season bowl games and the SEC Football Championship
- $1.575 from the NCAA and SEC Basketball Tournaments
- $930,000 from regular season basketball televised games (syndicated, cable and network)
Let’s take a closer look at the first category: games on network and cable television. First, each school received $2,738,846 from the television packages regardless of whether they played on television every week or not at all.
Next, each school receives a nominal sum for each appearance, $40,000 for a conference game and $120,000 for a non-conference game. LSU played eight conference games and one non-conference game on television last season for a total of $440,000.
Finally, any school that plays on a day other than Saturday receives a “non-traditional appearance fee” of $150,000 for the home team and $100,000 for the visiting team. LSU received $150,000 last year for its Friday game against Arkansas.
So, in all, LSU received $3,328,846 for nine regular season television appearances on CBS, ESPN, ESPN2 or TBS last season. As a matter of comparison, Ole Miss appeared on those networks only five times, yet still received over $3.1 million.
I make this comparison to emphasize the fact that the number of times LSU appears on TV does not dramatically impact the money LSU receives. In other words, when we move a game for TV, it is because of contractual obligations, not to make more money.
During the lean years of LSU football in the early 1990s, we still received our share of SEC television revenue, even though we didn’t appear on TV as much as other SEC schools. Now it’s our turn to pull our weight in the conference TV package.
It was not always this way. There was a time when the schools chosen for a single TV game did receive a handsome rights fee. But the SEC became a leader, following the NFL type model, of equal revenue distribution for member schools.
As for the Oregon State game specifically, there were several reasons that game was moved from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. When the Virginia Tech game was moved to 2007, we were committed to bringing a high quality opponent to Tiger Stadium, but without having to make a return appearance at that school’s stadium.
We were able to secure Oregon State only by guaranteeing them revenue from a TV appearance. ESPN agreed to carry the game, but also reached an agreement to carry the BYU-Notre Dame game on the same date. ESPN chose to televise that game beginning at 8 p.m. Whether we like to believe it or not, TV networks insist that Notre Dame has the most national viewers and will always get the best time slot.
Many times, when games are moved for television, we hear from fans that we “sold out” for the money. Some fans believe that an athletics director can just say “no” to the money and play the game when we want to. In reality, it is the long-term contractual commitment that has been made by every SEC school that requires all league schools to change game times for television.
We welcome your feedback, so write to us at LSUvision@etigers.net and tell us how we can make LSU Athletics better for you. I cannot promise a response to every letter we receive, but I can promise that each one will be read.
Thank you for your support of Tiger Athletics.