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Can Missouri pull a Clemson? Part 1: Off the field

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Revenue, fanbase, facilities, fundraising and all those other good things that go into a college football juggernaut.

Arkansas v Missouri
What would Barry Odom and his Tigers need to do in order to end the season sharing soulful hugs as national champions, rather than on Faurot Field?
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The phrase “Clemsoning” used to have a negative connotation. It used to call to mind Clemson’s propensity for getting to the peak of college football, only to fall decisively and embarrassingly from said peak.

Then Clemson got to the 2016 national championship game and almost knocked off big, bad Alabama. Then the Tigers got there again in 2017 and did knock off big, bad Alabama.

All of a sudden, “Clemsoning” has a bit of a different meaning.

Now, it means taking a program that had been largely dormant for almost two decades — as Clemson was -- and, in a little more than eight years’ time, turning it into a national champion. As Dabo Swinney did.

So the question of interest for Missouri fans should be “...uhhhh, can we get some of that?”

Are Barry Odom and his staff up to the task? Are the current and future Missouri players? What about all the peripherals to go into building a winner?

Are there any deeper-than-surface-level similarities (Tigers? Tigers. Check!) between Missouri and Clemson that could lead fans to believe this set of Tigers can follow the same path as those Tigers?

We’re going to try and break that down in a three-part series. Today, we talk about finances, fanbase, donor pool and the lure of the program. All that off-the-field fun stuff.


Here is one argument I never understood in the “we’re soooooo much better off in Power Conference A than Power Conference B” line of thinking.

“Power Conference A has a more lucrative per-school stipend than Power Conference B.”

In 2014-15, according to USA Today, the SEC gave the most to its schools among its Power-5 brethren, coughing up between $31.2 and $33.9 million. The ACC, by contrast, gave out “only” around the $26 million range.

Bully for Mizzou.

But, in order for you to win a national championship, you have to win your conference. Or at least be in the top two. And, if Missouri’s getting the same amount of money as Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M and other athletic departments that already have a, like, $60 million budget advantage on it each year...how does that help Missouri be more competitive within the SEC, exactly?

I imagine one might counter with, “Well, if Missouri were to find a way to win the SEC, all this extra money and support would help it when it goes out into the big, scary world and runs up against teams from conferences that don’t distribute as much.”

Fair point. But every other Power-5 league has its Alabama analogue who is starting out this cash bonanza era of college football in more advantaged position than the rest of its football conference mates.

The ACC has Clemson and Florida State. The Big Ten has Ohio State and Michigan. The Big 12 has Oklahoma and Texas. The Pac-12 has USC and Oregon.

No matter how much Missouri, Wake Forest, Rutgers, Kansas and Oregon State make from these lucrative conference entanglements with media conglomerates, they’re never catching up.

Here’s an illustration of that. Taking data from the EADA’s bank of athletic department revenue and expenses (it’s not as accurate as the NCAA-mandated reports, but it sure is comprehensive...and private schools can’t hide behind FOIA laws. So take that, Northwestern!) here is what each school in the ACC and SEC reported as far as revenue generated by its football program alone from 2012-13 (Missouri’s first year in the SEC) through 2014-15 (the latest the EADA has in its files):

ACC
SEC

(A note on Auburn’s weird 2013-14 figure...the athletic staffers must have changed the way they reported for that year or something. The 2012-13 and 2014-15 figures seem more legit.)

So you can see that the SEC team over those three years generated, on average, around $23-$26 million more in football revenue.

Good on you, SEC!

But wait. That means that, as Missouri’s revenue rose from $29 million to $37 million, Alabama’s also rose from $89 million to $97 million.

How is that gap ever going to close?

And, yes, the SEC’s relative strength could help the likes of Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, etc., close in on some of the big boys in other conferences, but they will do so incrementally.

And those big boys in the other conferences are already starting from a position of power in said conferences.

Peep this ACC football revenue chart tracking from 2009-10 to 2014-15. Even though Clemson had one of the slowest growth rates of any of its conference mates over that period, it still had the third-highest average revenue of league members who were in the ACC the whole time, behind Florida State and Virginia Tech.

ACC

Clemson is growing from a place of strength within its conference which, in turn, puts it in a much better position to contend nationally.

Missouri is not and can not. Look at the two programs’ football revenues from 2009-10 through 2014-15 side-by-side:

Clemson vs Mizzou Finances

Clemson produced more than $63 million more in football revenue than Missouri over those six years, or an average of about $10.6 million more per.

Even discounting the anomaly of 2011-12 -- in which the Big 12 got all withholdy with exiting Missouri’s conference funds — and Clemson still boasts an advantage of nearly $40 million more and a five-year average advantage of $8 million.

Yes, Missouri’s revenues have grown faster. But it will also probably never catch up. And this isn’t even counting 2015-16 and 2016-17, in which Clemson went to back-to-back national championships and made BANK, while Missouri went...9-15.

Which brings us to our next point: If everyone in your league is getting the same amount of money...how do you get more?

Fundraising. I could compare the two schools’ fundraising prowess but that would take a lot of time and FOIA’ing and I’m just not that into you guys.

sorrynotsorry. So I’ll just go general.

Jim Sterk’s off to a good start but, again, the relative lack of success over the past two years (plus some, ahem, controversial off-the-field happenings...) doesn’t make a cash waterfall appear that easily. Clemson’s got a strong fundraising infrastructure through IPTAY and is...you know...the national champion.

Ticket Sales. Getting people to pay to come to your home games (through season tickets or single-game) as well as landing yourself in some of those prime, national-exposure, neutral-site early season games in which you and a choice opponent fill up an NFL stadium and reap the benefits of the gate receipts and broadcast rights that follow.

Clemson has the cachet to pull in those big-time, non-conference national spotlight games right now. Missouri needs to get there.

It also needs to get people to come to Memorial Stadium.

Since 2009, Clemson has drawn an average of about 17,510 more fans to its home games than Missouri:

Clemson vs Mizzou Attendence

We’re not talking “percent of capacity filled” or “ticket revenue vs. cost of putting on a game” or any such other nuance right now. We’re talking fans paying, posteriors in seats and revenue flowing into coffers.

And why do you need revenue? So you can spend it, of course!

From the 2009 through 2014 seasons, the two participants in the national title game spent an average of $31.6 million on their football team during that season. Missouri’s average over that span: $17.7 million, or 44 percent less.

The only examples that really came close to those figures were Oregon in 2010 ($18.2 million) and 2014 ($20.7 million).

But, again, growing from a position of strength within the Pac-12. Clemson spent an average of $21.1 million a year on its football team during that span, for frame of reference.

And, with all this success recently, the spending (and earning) is probably going up exponentially.

So what do you use all that money on?

Deeper salary pools to lure high-quality head coaches and assistant staffs and keep them. Stadium improvements to get people to games. New practice facilities. New athletic facilities to lure in the types of players and coaches that can get you to the next level.

Missouri is making its way in that department. But Clemson would counter with its new facility that will include, according to The State newspaper, “a barber shop, arcade, bowling alley and laser tag.”

So would any number of other Power-5 schools who are frantically building whatever their imaginations can dream to try and position themselves for the football-playing and -coaching men of the future.

It’s an arms race that Missouri began in a severely overmatched position.

Missouri can’t really replicate Clemson’s situation in this aspect. What about some other ones?