Huge underdogs to No. 1 Florida State, Citadel not able to pull plug on big-money games

By: Jeff Hartsell
Sep 2 2014 10:00 pm

Citadel football coach Mike Houston was blunt Tuesday when asked if he’d like to see more games like the Bulldogs’ meeting with No. 1 Florida State on future schedules. “No,” Houston said. “Not unless we have 85 scholarships.”

But unlike fellow FCS school Coastal Carolina – which is not playing a “money game” against an FBS school this season and has pulled out of future dates with FBS programs Clemson, Kent State and Georgia Southern – The Citadel is not in position to pull the plug on guarantee games.
Saturday’s game at Florida State – the defending FBS national champion with Heisman Trophy quarterback Jameis Winston – might be the biggest mismatch in college football this season. It’s the first time the Bulldogs will play a No. 1-ranked team, and Florida State will pay The Citadel a reported guarantee of $440,000 for making the trip to Tallahassee.

Coastal Carolina was paid $375,000 for a game at South Carolina last season, and lost 70-10. Chanticleers coach Joe Moglia said this summer that the money was not worth it. Of course, Moglia is a multi-millionaire and as the former CEO of TD Ameritrade has all sorts of fund-raising connections to help Coastal make up the financial gap. “I would rather see schools go out and do a better job of raising the money, or commanding a far greater premium from the FBS schools,” Moglia said this summer. “I don’t see what the advantage is. I don’t see any advantage.
“I might help raise the money – and I’m not going to be a fundraiser – but if there are people out there that I think might be able to help us, I’m willing to make those phone calls because I recognize I’m the one who says I’m not crazy about the (FBS) games.”

Houston laughed Tuesday when asked if he could take a similar stance. “I don’t have Joe Moglia’s bank account,” he said. “If I could fund Citadel athletics, then we would not need to play these games.” As it is, The Citadel has guarantee games scheduled through 2017 – at South Carolina in 2015, at North Carolina in 2016 and at Clemson in 2017.

“There’s a reason why these games are scheduled, and that’s to balance the budget,” Houston said. “I told our kids, I’d like to get to the point where we can go into these games and be competitive, with a realistic chance to win. It was done here before and I want to get the program to that point.”

New Citadel athletic director Jim Senter said it’s a worthy goal for FCS programs to wean themselves off playing “money games” simply to pay the bills. But filling a $400,000 hole in the budget is not easy. “Let’s say we want to make up that $400,000 in ticket sales, and our average season ticket price was $100,” said Senter. “We’d have to sell 4,000 new season tickets to make up that $400,000. That’s a big number. I don’t know exactly what our season ticket sales have been over the last five years, but I can bet you we haven’t seen an increase of 4,000 season tickets in that time. “When you look at earned income in an athletic department and a $400,000 from a marquee game, it’s especially difficult to hit those numbers through development or through season ticket sales.”

FBS programs such as FSU offer 85 football scholarships, compared with the FCS limit of 63. But that’s just the beginning of the advantages a school like FSU – with an athletic department budget of $84.7 million – has over a school such as The Citadel ($13.2 million).

“You are looking at a different animal with the scholarships, the money, the resources that a school like FSU has versus what we have at this level,” Houston said. “There is no comparison in the way the two programs function. I don’t know how good a game it is for either of us.” That said, it’s up to Houston and the Bulldogs to make the most of Saturday’s game. The Citadel is 0-17 against nationally ranked FBS teams, including a 70-19 loss to Heisman-winning QB Tim Tebow and No. 3 Florida in 2008.

“I will try to stress to the kids that we will do what we do,” Houston said. “We’ll try to have fun with it, play hard and play Citadel football. Whatever happens will happen, and we’ll be together no matter what.”


%d bloggers like this: