Wednesday, May 22, 2024 May 22, 2024
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Want to lay down some bets on Southwest Conference football games this fall? Here’s a tip: Don’t bother looking at the rosters -just check the team bank books. In 31 out of 36 conference games last season, the team that had more money was the winner.

The Southwest Conference has. by way of dollars, evolved into a case of dramatically divided haves and have-nots. Basically, it’s a separation of Church and State: the private schools, mostly church-related (SMU, TCU, and Baylor, along with Rice), play poor-man’s football: the state-supported schools (Texas, A & M, Tech, Houston, and Arkansas) play the rich man’s game. Generally, the church schools lose and the state schools win. How does it happen?

The problem starts with the basic cost systems at each school. Every time an SWC school awards a full athletic scholarship, the athletic depart-ment must pay the school for that player’s tuition, room and board, and fees. Those scho-larship costs break down like this:

1. Rice $49002. SMU $47383. TCU $43904. Baylor $39005. Arkansas $30706. Texas $27947. Houston $2500

8. Texas A & M $2450

9. Texas Tech $2200

Each school can carry the NCAA limit of 95 scholarship players. So a full complement of players at Rice costs their football budget $465,500: the same 95 players at Texas Tech cost that department only $209,000. Simple arithmetic says that Tech’s football program starts the season $265,500 ahead of Rice. Then the spiral really starts to spin. With the extra money, Tech and the other state schools buy new uniforms, carpet in the locker rooms, thicker steaks on the training table, hotels before road games – all the little things that encourage the blue-chip to attend Tech instead of Rice. More important. Tech has the extra means for recruiting of that blue-chip. A small edge, but a decisive one. Result: Tech 37, Rice 13. Further result: Tech packs in 47,000 paying customers at home while Rice draws a handful. More bucks for the winners.

The state schools have the size advantage as well. More alumni equals more fans equals more contributions. Last year the Aggie club cashed in over a million dollars in gifts. TCU barely managed a hundred thousand. Result: A & M 59, TCU to. And the spiral continues: Money begets winning and winning begets money. Lack of money leaves a loser and losing makes it worse.

None of this is news to Texas football fans. But what’s amazing is how dramatic and consistent the parallel between money and winning has become in the Southwest Conference. And how frighteningly unlikely that it will change. Consider the adjoining chart. In making your predictions this fall, or in placing your bets, forget about the quarterbacks and corner-backs – it’s the greenbacks that count.