I had some other musical options for this one, but considering the fact that Sir Paul is apparently becoming a member of Nirvana today and that most of the other songs about money that I enjoy are made by the Wu-Tang Clan and thus have swears aplenty in them, I’ll give you this. It fits the theme well anyway:
Obviously this song is not about the high cost of competing in college sports these days, but in particular the line, “Out of college money spent/ See no future, pay no rent” has tenuous connections to Bemidji State’s financial difficulties as college hockey goes through a transition period.
My two-part series on the BSU hockey program examined just that: Why did the Beavers lose so much money on hockey the past two seasons? And how can they get back to where they were before?
(Find part one here and part two here… also be sure to check out Pioneer education reporter Bethany Wesley’s examination of the athletics budget as a whole… she wrote one a few weeks ago and has another scheduled to run in the next few days that focuses more specifically on Division II sports.)
With the reformation of the WCHA into more of a mid-major conference next season, there are may questions and few answers about how BSU can get back to where it was a few years ago.
Chris Dilks of the Western College Hockey Blog had perhaps the best take on the situation the other day:
From a purely hockey standpoint, I’ve had zero concerns at all. The new WCHA is going to have a lot of quality, hard-nosed, blue collar teams that should make for some fun conference match-ups. The real issue, as evidenced above, is going to be whether or not these teams can continue to make things work financially.
Bemidji State is in a particularly precarious position because they’re bound by a 20-year lease to the newly built Sanford Center. The Sanford Center was probably a little too big and expensive for a program the size of Bemidji State to handle financially, but it was the type of arena schools like North Dakota and Denver demanded they get in order to join the WCHA(and subsequently save their program), shortly before those schools stabbed them in the back by leaving to form their own conference. With the brand recognition of their competition dropping significantly next year, it seems very likely to see the trend of decreasing revenues to continue.
That seems to be the general consensus from everyone involved: It’s not really BSU’s fault that the program is losing money. It’s not the team’s performance, or fans not showing up, or the Sanford Center, or the athletic director, or boosters, etc.
The college sports landscape, as it stands now, is set up to fail. Unless you’re a major BCS school you’re probably going to lose money – and even if you are in a BCS conference, you might lose money, too.
Back in August, the Arizona Republic did a similar piece on Arizona State and found that the Sun Devils’ athletic program has needed nearly $80 million from the university since 2005 to stay afloat.
When you look at it this way, that makes the institutional support BSU has given its athletics department in the past five years (around $16 million) look like chump change.
But as WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod told me the other day, at places like Bemidji, which have smaller revenue streams to begin with, even losing a little bit of money can have a huge impact on the health of a program.
The positive thing about the new WCHA – if you can call it a positive – is that many of the schools in the newly-configured conference might be in the same boat. All, save Bowling Green, play Division II sports in everything else. Minnesota State and BSU are both in the NSIC, while Michigan Tech, Lake State, Ferris State, and Northern Michigan are all in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Alaska schools (Fairbanks and Anchorage) compete in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
I haven’t done extensive research on this, but it seems that all of the D-II schools in the WCHA share similar athletics budgets. As McLeod said, they’ll no longer be trying to “keep up with the Joneses” (i.e., with the Minnesotas, Michigans and North Dakotas of the world).
A few of the comments I’ve read said that Bemidji is a hockey town and if the Beavers are good, people will come even without the “marquee” teams that are in the WCHA.
I think that’s partly true, but the fact of the matter is that the Sanford Center is an expensive place to play hockey. It’s a great place to play, and watch hockey, too, but sometimes it feels too big. For example, BSU played Lake Superior State in its opening series – a team that has and will be one of BSU’s conference rivals. The two even have a traveling trophy.
And yet? Reported attendance for the Friday home opener was 3,005. For Saturday it was 2,070. The Michigan Tech series was around the same, while the Anchorage series had the largest announced attendance of any of the three series BSU has played so far this year. And that was when BSU ran a $12 ticket promotion.
I guess my biggest question, as an outsider, is this: Is the Bemidji market too tapped out? Are there enough fans to fill the Sanford Center for 18 games every season?
Maybe someone who’s more of a lifer can discuss this in the comments. What do you think? Bemidji is obviously a great hockey town with a passionate fanbase. But maybe the Sanford Center is a tad too big for the size of the community? The Glas was obviously a tad too small, but is the Sanford Center is a tad too big?
We will know more at the end of this season what BSU does to sort of “recapture the excitement” of the first season in the Sanford Center. But for now I’ll be interested to see what attendance figures look like for the rest of the season in light of this athletics report.
Denver comes to town this weekend. They’re ranked No. 10 in one rankings and No. 11 in another. I’ll try and blog about that series Thursday or Friday. Until then, I’d love to hear from readers about the attendance issue.