The Husker women's basketball team moved to 21-0 this past weekend, and up to a #3 ranking behind UConn and Stanford. They've drawn more than 10,000 fans for each of their last three games, so the fan support has been incredible.
Despite their historic success (and who knows who far they can go this season), the women's basketball team will be losing money for the athletic department:
Associate athletic director Marc Boehm said Monday that the Cornhuskers are on track to generate about $1 million this season. That's almost twice as much as the $533,000 in projected revenue but only half of the $2.2 million in projected expenses.
Still, Boehm says the extra revenue is "gigantic" for the athletic department. The Huskers have drawn three straight crowds of more than 10,000.
I'm not posting this to take a shot at the women's basketball team - far from it. If anything this shows the discrepancy between men's and women's basketball in terms of revenue. It also speaks volumes about what happens when one of the non-revenue sports has a successful season.
Note this comment from the same article:
Boehm says even though the men's basketball program is in last place in the Big 12, it's on track to make a $200,000 to $300,000 profit.
Can you imagine how much more money the athletic department would bring were the Husker basketball program to become a winning program and finish in the upper half of the Big 12 on a consistent basis?
Husker fans obviously do a tremendous job of supporting the football team, the sell-out streak is confirmation of having the best college football fan support in the nation. However, there seems to be an attitude from some Husker fans that support for the non-revenue sports detracts from the football program, as if spending any money on the other sports leaves less to spend on football.
This attitude was particularly prevalent during the Bill Byrne era, as Byrne focused on building the "other sports" at Nebraska. Some felt that he let the football facilities lag and damaged the football program, but the fact is that what Bill Byrne did at Nebraska was set the stage for many of the other teams to be more successful than they had in the past (Buck Beltzer field vs Haymarket Park - think about that for a minute), and that in turn, helps out the football program. The athletic department is not engaged in a zero-sum game. As each sport becomes more successful, it contributes more revenue to the athletic department.
The current recession has hit the United States hard. State-run universities (NCAA institutions) such as Nebraska have not yet fully felt it's impact. That impact will become much more apparent in the next two years. The bottom line - it has never been more important for Nebraska to be successful in all of its sports because of the fans they bring, and the revenue they generate if the University of Nebraska athletic department is to weather the coming economic storm.