The economy of college football isn’t balanced and that is why you have weeks like this. The Florida Gators will pay UT Martin $500,000 dollars to play a football game this weekend in Gainesville and it’s more than worth it to both schools.
For Florida they get a home game, a chance to have their stadium packed with its fans and the city of Gainesville gets to reap the benefits of a hustling and bustling college town with a football game. For UT Martin, it’s an even bigger benefit. Games like this, although normally ending in lopsided losses, are the lifeblood of their program and allow the university to field a football team.
UTM comes to Gainesville for the first time in program history but they have a good knowledge of playing SEC schools. The Skyhawks played at Missouri and at Ole Miss last season. This year they will also travel to Lexington to play Kentucky. It’s something that FCS schools have to do. UTM head coach Jason Simpson said on the Ohio Valley teleconference that he and his team are used to it. Simply put, the money they receive for these games sustains the program.
“I certainly appreciate Scott Stricklin and Coach Mullen signing this contract to bring us down. Jimbo Fisher will say college football needs this trickle-down effect. If these games get taken away, what it would mean to programs like ours’ and others, certainly OVC and FCS programs, which could ultimately limit scholarship opportunities for players out of high school,” Simpson said. “It would just keep trickling down because eventually you would have to cut the scholarship level, the amount of scholarships you would give out. And maybe that would prevent some guys in high school from playing football if they think their scholarship opportunities are limited. So I certainly appreciate guys like Coach Mullen seeing these games through and guys like Jimbo Fisher who come out and talk about it and kind of politic for it.”
Guarantee games are a fixture in college football, even if Nick Saban wants to do away with them. USA Today has an extensive list of which FBS schools have FCS schools and how much they’re being paid. Power 5 teams paid more than $40 million dollars in the opening weekend alone to play Group of Five and FCS teams. That’s just one weekend.
It gives a program like UT Martin money that can be used for facilities, gear, recruiting and overall upgrades to their program. The checks they get help keep the program above water but that isn’t the only benefit that Simpson sees. Simpson guessed he was 1-24 playing FBS teams since he’s been the coach at UTM.
“So it’s an uphill battle, no doubt. But over the years I have learned something that on our good teams, in games like this, especially early in the season, obviously if you play well, you stay in the game, you continue to fight, yeah that’s easy to benefit from. But there’s also opportunities for individual growth players can make, even these young players, the Florida players we’re going to bring on this trip. There’s a certain investment they’re going to make into our program as they become the future stars in the years to come.”
The home team paying for a game doesn’t guarantee a win. Will Muschamp and the Gators found that out when they paid Georgia Southern $550,000 to play and lost 26-20. Just last weekend Tennessee paid Georgia State $950,000 to play and the Panthers beat the Vols 38-30.
This week should allow the Gators to ease back into the season after a close win over Miami. They did witness upsets last week and know that it could happen to them if they overlook the Skyhawks with a road trip to Kentucky on the horizon. It may just be another game to the Gators, but it’s an opportunity of a lifetime for the Skyhawks and a game they need to continue having a program.
That’s how college football works. One team gets paid to, presumably, come and take one on the chin for the betterment of the program in the long term. However, if the big kid on the block overlooks little brother they could be just another team embarrassed by the little guy while handing over a check.