John E. Hoover: Stillwater doesn't win with OSU moving football games to Texas
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Saturday, December 22, 2012
12/22/12 at 4:15 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blog.Original Print Headline: Stillwater doesn't win with move
STILLWATER - Mike Holder's decision to move potential home games to Texas - Houston in 2013, Arlington in 2014 - seems like a good idea for Oklahoma State University.
But does everybody win?
Stillwater merchants bring in about $7 million in visitor spending every time OSU hosts a home football game.
"From a (chamber of commerce) standpoint," said Stillwater Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director Cristy Morrison, "of course you're gonna want to see the games held locally."
Holder, Oklahoma State's athletic director, told the Tulsa World in an email on Friday that OSU will be paid approximately $2.15 million for next year's season-opener against Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium and will get $3.5 million for the 2014 opener against Florida State in Cowboys Stadium.
OSU also will get to sell its own tickets for those games, a potentially lucrative venture. (For this season's opener in Arlington, Alabama and Michigan each got 25,000 tickets and set their own pricing structure; those schools also each received a flat fee of $4.7 million from ESPN and Cowboys Stadium, LP, or 34 percent more than OSU will make for playing Florida State.)
Other benefits the school and football program enjoy include a visible presence in its two most vital recruiting areas and the priceless national exposure that comes with playing a nationally televised game against a marquee opponent during the opening weekend of the college football season.
But back in Stillwater, the last Saturday in August will be dark for the next two years.
Stan Clark, owner of Eskimo Joe's, said his stores probably do "twice as much" business on Saturdays the Cowboys are at home as they do when OSU plays on the road.
As anyone who's tried to get a table at Stillwater's "Jumpin' Little Juke Joint" or its sister properties on game day can attest, "twice as much" sounds conservative.
"Clearly, we'd like more home games," Clark said. "Sure, I'd like one every weekend."
A 2003 study by the Stillwater CVB (based on figures from the 2002 season) estimated that visitors to Stillwater on a college football Saturday pour almost $4 million into the local economy. But that was a decade ago.
Accounting for inflation, as well as a 39 percent increase in the Cowboys' average attendance (from 40,932 in 2002 to a two-year average of 56,903 in 2011 and 2012) and some 500 hotel rooms added in the last decade, a conservative guess for average visitor spending per home game the last two years is closer to $7 million.
That's some $14 million, then - probably more - that will never make it into Stillwater cash registers when the Cowboys play the Bulldogs in '13 and the Seminoles in '14.
Morrison said a new study, to begin Jan. 4, will provide a more contemporary and more precise estimate on the impact OSU football has on the local community.
At least OSU still gets six home games in 2013 (Lamar in nonconference, Kansas State, TCU, Kansas, Baylor and OU in Big 12 play). Yes, it could have been seven, but it also was nearly five.
In nonconference play, the Cowboys play a road game at Texas-San Antonio - a favor to UTSA coach/Okemah native/former OU-OSU-TU assistant/longtime Gundy pal/all-around good guy Larry Coker.
And for the second year in a row, OSU next season will play five Big 12 home games instead of four. Merchants can thank the scheduling glitch of TCU taking Texas A&M's place; the Aggies' 2011 neutral-site game with Arkansas left them short of home games, so OSU agreed to play back-to-back years in College Station before A&M left for the SEC).
The '14 schedule isn't set yet, but with four home games in Big 12 play and the Florida State game in Arlington, it's certain everyone's priority is to find two nonconference home games.
There may be a hidden benefit in swapping a home game for the payday of a high-profile contest at a neutral site.
As Holder and coach Mike Gundy put their heads together to grow the program, playing marquee games can only help. Money made on out-of-town games means lower overhead, which helps the bottom line. That means more revenue can be spent on facilities, salaries, equipment and, most importantly, a bigger recruiting budget.
Growing the program, then - playing on national television, winning more games, competing for championships - should equate to better attendance at home games in the future, which means maybe everybody does win - Stillwater merchants included.
"I'm not gonna sit here and tell you I'd rather them play out of town, but I'm sure there are upsides to playing those games," Clark said. "The overall viability of the program is as important as anything.
"I'm all-in, whatever they choose to do."
Of course everyone wants to pocket a dollar today. But Holder should be applauded for planning for tomorrow. Look how far the OSU program has come in the last decade. And look how far it came in the decade before.
"I was (CVB) director during the 0-10-1 year," said Morrison, an OSU alum. "I can tell you what successful seasons can do for a community. ... I've seen the good seasons. I've seen the probation season. I went to college with Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders, two of the best players to ever play the game, yet nobody ever went to the games.
"Nobody tailgated back then, either, and now look. You've got people that come to town that don't even have season tickets. They come for the experience and the atmosphere.
"There's never a perfect world, and you're never going to please everybody. ... There's certain things you don't get because you don't win, you don't have a great program. Then you have a really great program and, well, you just have a different set of challenges."
Oklahoma State athletic director, Mike Holder. ZACH GRAY/Tulsa World