Saturday, December 20, 2008

By The Numbers

In the rough and tumble world of I-AA college football, is there a place for an academically-focused private school better known for basketball than football to compete for the title?

Ask Richmond.

Yes, the same Richmond that hosted Georgetown on October 25, ran the table en route to the I-AA (FCS) national championship. But there's more that distances the Spiders from the Hoyas than the final score of 48-0 that rainy day in October. Richmond is one of seven schools in the subdivision whose football expenses exceed $4 million in a season. And Georgetown, well, is not one of the seven.

There are a lot of fingers to point as to why this decade has been so fruitless for Georgetown in I-AA football, but it pays to check the source--in this case, the Department of Education's Equity in Athletics reports (EADA). The EADA reports aren't perfect (schools can allocate expenses in different ways), but it provides an reasonably objective look at expenses across schools. And despite having doubled its budget from 1998 to 2003, Georgetown is falling further behind not only its Patriot League brethren, but most of the schools in the East.

Let's look first at the Patriot League. The EADA reports for the seven schools show a growing gap between the top of the league (where Fordham and Colgate have passed $4 million in spending) and Georgetown, which translates into fewer financial aid awards and less depth in games...put another way, there's a reason why Georgetown is a combined 0-22 against Colgate, Lehigh, and Holy Cross, and a fair amount of it has to do with the inability to sign talent that chooses a Georgetown offer over a proportionately better one from these other three schools. That doesn't excuse the other thorns in the Hoyas' paws, but you can do a lot more with a bigger budget than a smaller one.

So how big is the disparity? Here are the EADA results for the fiscal year ending 6/30/08. Yes, Georgetown not only spends less on football, proportionately, than any other PL school, but its overall athletic budget is also larger than any of fact, it's the largest athletic budget in I-AA. It would be unrealistic to think Georgetown could spend 20-25% of its budget on football--if it did, we'd be talking about a Big East-level football budget, not a Patriot League one. Still, the numbers ought to be a wake up call for any Georgetown (or Patriot) fan. If Georgetown doubled its budget tomorrow, it would be roughly where Bucknell is now...and still be sixth in spending.

And where does this spending fit relative to other Eastern I-AA schools? Not enough.

It's no secret that Georgetown's budget doesn't stand up against the Colonial, or even the Patriot. And among the Ivy schools, Georgetown would also rank at the bottom along with Brown. But even among the Northeast Conference, once a sister league to the MAAC, has three of its eight schools spending more than Georgetown.

Thankfully for Georgetown, there is hope. While there seems a strong correlation in I-A between spending and success, the correlation in I-AA is not as strong. Yes, Delaware and Richmond are playoff contenders, but Fordham and Hofstra's respective $4 million investments haven't translated to long term success. Brown spends less than any of its Ivy brethren (at least according to this report) and has established itself as a legitimate Ivy contender.

Georgetown doesn't need to spend $4 million to be successful, but it needs to invest wisely and to incent donors to directed giving programs much more than it does right now. If Georgetown could focus on as little as $200,000 a year in additional donor revenue to commit to ten additional offers at $20,000 a year, how much of an impact would that be? What would this team be like with an additional ten recruits that are now going elsewhere?

Growing the budget won't come from the University--it must come from the constituents. Are they getting the message?