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AAC members show Wichita State the price of playing big-time football

Wichita State studied the addition of a football team during its evaluation of the athletic department.
Wichita State studied the addition of a football team during its evaluation of the athletic department. Courtesy photo

Two recent stories from the American Athletic Conference remind us of the costs of a football program.

Wichita State looked at football and assembled cost estimates as part of its 2015-16 evaluation of the athletic department. Football, not suprisingly, didn’t make sense and the American’s desire to add a strong basketball program without needing a football team fit perfectly with Wichita State.

Everybody else in the American is full-go on football, as two recent developments show.

In Memphis, the university borrowed $10 million to finish its indoor practice facility. An SEC school writes that check. Memphis is not in that position.

“Some athletic departments (and universities) are rich. Some athletic departments (and universities) are not rich,” wrote Geoff Calkins of the Commercial Appeal. “Memphis is among the not rich. This is just another reminder of that.”

In Tampa, South Florida unveiled early plans for a $200 million stadium that would seat 40-50,000 fans.

One of the early indications that football at WSU wasn’t feasible at the highest level was when president John Bardo talked about renovating Cessna Stadium. Renovated Cessna Stadium works for Football Championship Subdivision football, playing against Missouri State, Northern Iowa etc. It may even work for Football Bowl Subdivision conferences such as the Sun Belt, depending on the renovation.

To play football in a conference that made sense for WSU basketball would require much more than $20 million poured into Cessna Stadium. Houston opened a new stadium in 2014 at a cost of around $125 million. Tulane’s stadium, also opened in 2014, cost around $73 million.

Football: It’s a lot of fun until the bills arrive.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

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