Oodles of facts, figures and miscellaneous information are crammed into the 200 pages of the Big 12 Conference football media guide.
Everything you could possibly want to know about Big 12 football is contained therein. Well, not everything.
On page 22, a short paragraph proclaims that more than 4.6 million fans watched league games in 2007 and that conference stadiums were at 96.6 percent capacity.
Nowhere, however, could I find a school-by-school breakdown of football attendance which I found surprising because, more than anything, those are the numbers that have the biggest impact on the way the dozen schools do business.
And business, in case you’re still living in the Rah-Rah Land of Naiveté, is what college athletics is all about.
The latest example was the joint announcement by Kansas and Missouri officials on Thanksgiving Day — strange timing, in retrospect, but business never takes a holiday — that the KU-MU football game would be played at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium for the next four years.
The knee-jerk reaction in Lawrence and in Columbia was outrage. How dare they move a game off campus. And to a professional sports venue at that.
They have a point, I’ll grant you, but underlying forces are at work here, particularly the lightly publicized Big 12 Conference stipulation that schools keep all of their home game revenue while visiting teams receive nothing. That’s zip. Nada. Zilch.
For an example of the disparity involved, consider Kansas and Texas. When the Longhorns visited Lawrence a couple of weeks ago, KU kept all the money it could muster out of a sellout crowd of 51,930.
Kansas made a bundle, all right, squeezing a few extra dollars by charging a premium price for single-game tickets. But KU’s take is nothing compared to what Texas will make next year when the Jayhawks visit Austin, Texas. UT’s stadium holds more than 94,000 fans.
And Texas is just one of four Big 12 stadiums that seat more than 80,000.
Looking at it from that perspective, Missouri and Kansas playing in Arrowhead for a split gate is simply one way of playing catch-up in a money game they can never win.
KU officials reported that last year’s KU-MU game at Arrowhead generated about $300,000 more than a home game in Lawrence or about $1.2 million.
No doubt this year’s KU-MU game will be just as lucrative and, because it was a Missouri home game, KU’s split was all gravy.
If you were making the decision, would you rather have played Missouri in Columbia and returned home with goose eggs instead of dollars, or would you play the Tigers in Kansas City and collect well over a million dollars? That’s a no-brainer.
High-profile sports remain the front porch of every university — the only means, really, of maintaining contact with far-flung alumni who are would-be donors.
That’s why athletic directors are paid more than chancellors. That’s why the joint announcement of the KU-MU extension made on Turkey Day was made without a peep from the titular head of either university.