Guarantees mean guaranteed money for WSU athletics

Brandon May

Each year, Weber State University athletics spends $14,901,150 on all their 16 NCAA teams on campus, with 27 percent of that spending going to the football team.

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Of the 11 universities that compete in the Big Sky Conference, Weber State ranked third in spending behind the University of Montana and Montana
State University.

Weber State’s athletic department is responsible for over 330 student athletes. Many of these student athletes use their scholarship opportunities to receive their undergraduate degrees and may not have had the opportunity to do so without
NCAA sports.

In 2017 and 2018, Weber State athletics requested $2,294,840 from Wildcat student fees. Athletics then requested $2,347,955 for the 2018-19 academic school year.

For 2019-20, Wildcat athletics requested $2,397,955 from student fees. WSU uses the funds from student fees to help pay for scholarships, which takes $1,970,915. $201,500 goes toward travel, $157,000 goes to medical costs, $38,540 goes to athletic trainers, $5,000 goes to softball coaches and $25,000 goes to the spirit squad.

WSU’s spirit squad funding includes gear, apparel and assistance but also helps out the dance team.

Because running a Division I program is expensive, smaller Division I programs like Weber State’s use guaranteed games to help fund their athletic

Each year, major Division I teams pay smaller schools, like WSU, to play at their home stadiums. Guaranteed games allow schools like the University of Utah to fill their stadiums, sell concessions and play what should be a guaranteed win.

Guaranteed games also mean there is guaranteed money for Weber State. Bigger schools will pay WSU Athletics anywhere from $200,000 to $700,000 to play them at the beginning of the season.

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“Many of the Football Bowl Subdivision schools will pay our schools from $200,000 and up,” commissioner of the Big Sky Tom Wistrcill said. “The money goes to their athletic program, and each school decides on what they want to do with it.”

Because Weber State’s income doesn’t match the spending, WSU is forced to play in one or two of these games each year.

The University of Montana and Montana State compete in the Football Championship Subdivision but don’t play guaranteed games. Because of their huge fan support, boosters and other income streams, neither school needs to play in these games.

For as long as Athletic Director Jerry Bovee has been at WSU, he has scheduled only one guaranteed game for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball, respectively, each year.

“I’ve always been an advocate of one game,” Bovee said. “When I got here, we played two each year to help with our budget, but since then, we are not in that
place anymore.”

Bovee said the money made in guaranteed games doesn’t just go to football but into the general budget for
Wildcat Athletics.

“The money we get from guaranteed games goes into our general budget,” Bovee said. “Even though football programs are expensive to run, we don’t allocate it to just football. We don’t budget that way.”

Last year, Weber State’s expenses for football reached $3,986,758. WSU spent $1,930,140 on men’s basketball and $1,107,780 on women’s basketball. The rest of the 13 NCAA teams on campus spent a combined $4,542,555.

Weber State’s funding from boosters, ticket sales and other income doesn’t quite reach the total expenses, hence the necessity for guaranteed games.

“It’s a lot more expensive to run a football program,” Bovee said. “From the equipment and from the squad size. You’re dealing with 95 to 100 students on just the one squad.”

Last year, Weber State’s football team had 99 student athletes on their roster, accounting for 27 percent of the Weber State student athletes. The football roster is three times the size of any other team
on campus.

“It’s just a huge expense running a Division I football program,” Bovee said. “Right now, we can’t get covered in donors, ticket sales and other income streams.”

Bovee and the rest of the front office don’t just look at the money when scheduling these games. They also look at the strategic side. Weber State wants to play in games in which they feel they
can compete.

“I think the athletes want it,” Bovee said. “A lot of them came here with aspirations of playing at Power 5 schools. They want to play at the highest levels, showing they are elite athletes.”

Power 5 schools include the Athletic Coast Conference, PAC 12, Southeastern Conference, the Big Ten and the Big 12. Power 5 schools are considered the top level of college football and will pay smaller Division I programs.

Cornerback Parker Preator started his collegiate career at Snow College before transferring to Weber State. Preator took in the experience of playing in a guaranteed game last year against the University
of Utah.

“As a player, getting to play in front of a sold-out stadium is something special and everyone dreams about playing in them,” Preator said. “One of the biggest things I realized was what money can get you, such as a bigger venue, nicer locker rooms and more fans.”

Running back Treshawn Garrett experienced multiple guaranteed games throughout his tenure at Weber State.

“I’ve been honored to face teams all over the country and competition at all levels of college football,” Garrett said. “Playing out-of-conference games are
always exciting.”

While there are upsides of guaranteed games, there are some negatives, too.

Bovee finds evaluating the team after playing elite schools to be difficult.

“It’s hard to measure where we are at,” Bovee said. “We try to play teams that we can compete in, and that’s why we decided to play San Diego State and Nevada
next fall.”

Last year, Weber State lost to Utah 41–10. In 2017, the ’Cats lost to Cal Berkeley 33–20. In 2016, they lost to Utah State

“We go to Colorado State a few years ago and then Cal,” Bovee said. “At times, we are just a few snaps away from winning the game. These games just make it really hard for us to evaluate us and see where we are.”

Weber State also has had to deal with injuries during guaranteed games the past few years.

Garrett found himself sidelined after the Utah State game in 2016 and University of Utah game last year. Garrett missed the whole season in 2016 and was sidelined for the first three games last fall.

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“Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game,” Garrett said. “I experienced a game-ending injury so early in the game.”

Garrett felt he not only let himself down but also his teammates and coaches.

Weber State football isn’t the only team on campus that plays guaranteed games.

“Some of our men’s and women’s basketball teams also compete in guaranteed games,” Wistrcill said.

However, because college football has the greater revenue, they pay more for each game.

Weber State and the rest of the smaller Division I programs use guaranteed games to help pay for their expenses and to update their facilities. Although it’s a tough game to start the season, it provides opportunities for the university and
its athletes.