In today’s world — with hundreds of HD games on television each week, ticket prices rising, and Americans becoming more and more accustomed to getting what they want when they want it — college football programs have to win. Now. A lot. The problem, of course, is that not everybody can win. Now. A lot.
Those that don’t win regularly see their attendance numbers fall. Revenue drops as a result. Just ask Tennessee governor Bill Haslam about the flagship football program in the Volunteer State:
“They can’t be average, and you hate to say it that way, but financially it just doesn’t work. They have to fill that stadium up. They get the benefit of being part of the SEC and all the TV money that comes with that, but at the end of the day, if they can’t fill that stadium up and sell concessions, then not just the football program but all the other sports that benefit from a strong football program suffer…
“If you want to be bottom line about it, it shows why UT-Knoxville has to be good in football. You have a whole program that’s set up with a 100,000-seat Neyland Stadium, and it’s a program that supports all the other sports other than basketball and provides scholarships back to the university.”
The irony is that the biggest and most powerful benefactor of the University of Tennessee and its athletic department over the past few decades has been Governor Haslam’s own family.