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College Football Guarantee Games Reap Post-Pandemic Cash, for Now

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The Kent State football team has just one win in four games this season, but the Flashes are garnering financial wins as they slowly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kent State received $5.2 million in three non-conference games this month against Washington ($1.8 million), No. 18 Oklahoma ($1.5 million) and No. 1 Georgia ($1.9 million) – all from which were double-digit losses. This is about 25% of all Kent State athletics activity. income last fiscal year ($19.6 million). After similar payout games were disturbed in 2020, G5 programs like the Flashes will appreciate a much-needed boost to their coffers.

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“The predictability is great,” Kent State Athletic Director Randale Richmond said in a telephone interview. “Knowing what budget figure you have is definitely a blessing because of the predictability you know what other revenues you need to get. But will there be guaranteed games in this clip in the future? Who knows?”

Guaranteed games are non-conference matches in which one school or educational institution plays another program for a fixed fee to travel to their own stadium or neutral venue. And most of these games are contracted for years to come. East Washington, for example, will receive $750,000 for playing in Florida on Sunday; a game scheduled back in 2016 for the 2020 season was pushed back to this year and then pushed back a day due to Hurricane Yan.

While no significant changes in volume are expected, the future of these competitions is more dont clear than ever NCAA continues to transform. Games depend on a variety of factors, including a major reorganization of the Power Five conferences, TV partners making more specific requests on schedule when they claim rights, and expanding College football Playoffs.

The SEC has already signed a $300 million-a-year extension with ABC and ESPN that will take effect after the 2023 season. big ten a $7 billion media rights deal with CBS, FOX and NBC followed this summer. Meanwhile, Big 12, who recently became a partner Tryopened media rights talks, and Pac-12’s contracts with ESPN and FOX expire in 2024. Conferences and media partners can increase the number of matches at a high level.

This, in turn, potentially means that fewer games will be aired featuring lower level schools.

Many of the smaller FBS schools and FCS programs enjoy participating in these guarantee games; this not only gives the team the ability to recruit players in regions of the country that they normally can’t due to budgetary constraints, but it also gives their players the chance to play in historic, huge stadiums against some of the nation’s most legendary programs.

And sometimes these programs even leave with a salary and a victory. Appalachian State took home $1.5 million this month to play at College Station, where they beat Texas A&M 17-14. Middle Tennessee State also received $1.5 million for a game in Miami, Florida, where it won 45-31 last week. Georgia Southern got a $1.4 million bag in a stunning win over Nebraska45-42.

Those opportunities are now under threat as television partners and superconferences resist setting years in advance with a renewed focus on maximum flexibility. There is also speculation that the next rounds of media rights negotiations may require fewer out-of-conference games, which would subsequently cause Power Five’s athletic directors to question the value of guaranteed games.

Former ESPN senior vice president Rob Temple believes more conference play is just one of many variables influencing scheduling, and says schools working with media partners is key to unlocking new value and flexibility. “Everyone is more interested in quality and choice than ever,” said Temple, now CEO of FishBait Solutions. “This will affect matches and different types of games.”

For now, the financial models of many of the G5 and FCS programs are dependent on cash inflows from these guaranteed games, especially due to pandemic-related revenue losses.

“I can speak for many FCS sports directors and they will tell you that these [games] are mandatory for us,” North Carolina Central University (NCCU) athletic director Louis “Skip” Perkins said in a telephone interview. “How to refuse 600-700 000 dollars for one game? You won’t get it at home, maybe homecoming if you’re lucky, but that’s what it comes down to.”

Despite the ever-changing landscape, some in the industry believe that non-conference one-shot games won’t go away.

Nick Carparelli, executive director of the Bowl Season, believes that if Power Five member schools decide to play extra conference games, they will potentially have less incentive to play quality non-conference opponents and more benefit from buying home games against smaller FBS and FCS programs.

“[Guarantee games] have been around for a long time and I think they are here to stay,” he said in a telephone interview. “It works for both sides.”

NCCU, a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), will travel to the Rose Bowl to play University of California at Los Angeles next season. The Eagles will receive $750,000 to play one of the new Big Ten members in a matchup officially announced last year.

Perkins emphasizes that while the money made from these games is critical, smaller programs need to be “careful” about who they play with, as a demoralizing and physically painful loss to a large company could do more harm than good. When you find the right game with a guarantee, it’s a two-way street. “You don’t want to sell your soul to the devil for a seven-figure salary,” he said.

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