Market Power

Musings by an academic economist on the power of markets and the power over markets.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Why is MU Football So Mediocre?

Another year, another disappointing season for MU football - I can’t say I’m not disappointed, because I am. But I can’t say that I am upset because of the poor on-field performance of the teams I root for. It’s been especially bad since last October, the time since the Cubs took a 3-1 lead on the Marlins, only to have it all slip away. I’ve gotten too used to rooting for losers, I guess.

The Missouri Tigers gets it handed to them by Kansas 31-14, the second year in a row that the Tigers have lost to rival KU in grand fashion. This loss makes it 5 losses in a row overall. The Tigers, at 4 and 6, will not win the Big XII North. They will not go to any bowl. They will not win at least 8 games.

Why does Mizzou consistently perform poorly on the football field, especially considering they often have 50-55K at the games (they averaged over 55,000 in 2003). Now this isn’t great compared to the NU’s, OU’s, and Texas’s of the college football world, but it still isn’t too bad for a program with 3 winning seasons since 1983. While attendance is important, the revenues and costs generated by the football program are even more important.

Here is some athletic department data for teams playing in the Big XII north that I got from the Chronicle of Higher Education for the 2002-2003 academic year. It's the most-recent data available. It relates a telling story.

Missouri ranked next-to last in revenue generated by the football team. I don't have ticket price data for that year, but Mizzou ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack of the Big XII North teams in ticket prices this year... maybe a little below the middle.

MU ranked dead last, by almost $2 million, in operating expenses. It was also dead-and-buried last in proportion of total expenses spent on football but it ranked second, by almost $3 million compared to the third-place team, on total operating expenditures. A lot of people went to the games, but the school ididn't capture much money off of the football team and it spent less on the program than the other teams in its division.

Might Title IX restrictions have something to do with it? The following table makes me doubt this as a legitimate reason:

Missouri ranked last in men’s athletic program operating expenditures and next-to last in women’s athletic program operating expenditures, but it ranked second in operating expenditures on non-athletic-program expenditures.

One more table:

They also ranked next-to-last in recruiting expenditures for men’s programs and third to last in women’s recruiting expenditures.

All this begs the question – what were they spending their money on at Mizzou?