As the clock hit 0:00 and both teams left the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Weber State University football team didn’t have a single player who had his head down. Even after being dominated for 60 minutes, and being outscored by nine touchdowns, the Wildcats left the field the same way they came onto it — with their heads held high.
By the end of the second quarter, with the score reading 49-0, it seemed obvious that WSU was no match for the University of Utah, at least not this year. What wasn’t so obvious was the reason WSU would even want to play a Pac-12 team that more than likely would blow it out of the water. According to one reporter, there were a few hundred thousand reasons.
Darren Rovell, an ESPN sports business reporter and business correspondent for ABC News, posted on his Twitter feed that WSU would receive $400,000 for playing the game against the Utes. And WSU wasn’t the only “small” school to have a big payday this weekend.
However, Jerry Bovee, WSU director of intercollegiate athletics, said he doesn’t want people to think that it’s just about the money.
“There’s a misnomer out there that this is just a money game and we walk away,” Bovee said. “I think we go into it with the philosophy of trying to strategically decide what games are good for us. It does help our budget and we do play these games to help build the program financially. But we try not to just go for the money, totally.”
While Bovee said competing in the games is important, he also hinted that other things go into the strategy equation.
“This year we just happened to play two in state,” he said. “Strategically, it is based on the fact that our fan base can get to two other games besides the five we play at home within an hour drive. That was kind of the thinking behind that.”
Money is still a big deciding factor in whether or not WSU will schedule an FBS school. WSU made 3 percent of its $12 million budget in the three hours the Wildcats spent in Salt Lake City.
“If you were to bring in between $300 and $500,000 in guarantee games, basketball brings in some money-guarantee games; it all goes into helping develop that budget,” Bovee said. “It goes for scholarships, it goes into the cost of doing business. Every time you get on an airplane with a football team, you are going to spend about $70,000. Everything that we generate here through our revenue generation opportunities is less that the university or the state has to invest in our program.”
One question that could be on the minds of fans is how these games affect player morale. WSU head coach Jody Sears, in his postgame press conference, talked about how his players were responding to the loss and what the games do for his team.
“It will raise the bar and the expectation and the standard of each individual in that locker room,” Sears said. “And they have a good look in their eye. We are not going to kick rocks; we are not going to kick the can down the road. We’ve got to set our shoulders and our jaw and get better. I think that urgency and that intensity, we can grow from it.”
Bovee added that the players look forward to these games, to gauge how they match up against upper-division teams.
“These are competitive men,” Bovee said. “To some degree, some of these athletes have a little chip on their shoulder because they didn’t end up at an FBS school. They are at an FCS school, and they want to show that they were maybe overlooked.”