Loss of football revenue could impact other sports and programs

Published 2:38 pm Monday, July 27, 2020

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It has long been understood by many that across the many different levels on which it is played, football is a key moneymaker and carries a great deal of value with it overall.

How much does it mean monetarily to public schools in the area?

Local high school athletics directors (AD) address this question and others, helping provide context for what hangs in the balance should football not be played during the 2020-21 school year due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.

No public school varsity football team in the immediate area enjoyed more success in 2019 than the Buckingham County High School Knights, who advanced as far as the Region 2B semifinals and finished 10-2 overall. They appeared poised for another strong run in 2020 before the Virginia High School League (VHSL) voted Monday, July 27, to move football to spring 2021 due to the pandemic.

“Football brings in our biggest income in sports,” Buckingham AD Russ Gowin said. “It really helps to pay for our lower-revenue sports, especially when football has been strong on the field the past two seasons.”

He said football revenue goes into the high school’s athletic account to pay for all its sports.

“For instance, in the last two years, every varsity team, in every sport, has gotten new uniforms,” he said.

Gowin noted the athletic department helps support middle school sports and many clubs and activities at the high school.

“We started my first year giving SCA (Student Council Association) the entire concession profits for all our sports,” he said. “It’s their biggest fundraiser all year and goes to pay for so many student activities, including the prom, homecoming dance, senior breakfast and SCA conventions. Also we have given donations for an academic camp last summer, senior graduation publications, drama club plays and to the JROTC. Also, we donate to our Medford Basketball team at our school.”

The Medford squad gives children with special needs an opportunity to play basketball.

He also said the Buckingham athletics department allows any of the school’s clubs or activity groups to set up fundraisers at its home football games.

“It’s a great way for them to raise money and be involved with our programs,” he said.

Prince Edward County High School AD Rodney Kane said he could not tell exactly how much the school makes off of football because it has the money it takes in at the gate, plus it does sell All Sports passes, and all of that money goes into the athletics budget at the high school.

“Football and basketball at Prince Edward, and at most high schools, are the sports that make money,” Kane said. “At Prince Edward, that money stays in athletics and is used to buy equipment and uniforms for all sports.”

Central High School AD Wallace Owen said Central’s varsity football program is the school’s largest generator of funds in terms of gate receipts. Its junior varsity (JV) football program is the school’s largest generator of JV gate receipts.

“The revenue generated by our football program is deposited into our (Central High School) Athletic Fund, which is used to pay for the expenses of all of our sports at the high school,” he said. “Most of our sports operate at a deficit due to the high cost of equipment, supplies and especially officials. Our yearly cost for officials easily tops $20,000.”

Randolph-Henry High School AD Christopher Holt said the high school’s football program is also its largest revenue-generating sport.

“We are blessed to have incredibly supportive families and community members that consistently attend our home events,” he said.

The revenue generated from Randolph-Henry’s football programs benefits all its athletic/activity programs to some extent.

“The revenue stays within supporting our VHSL-sponsored sports and activities,” he said, later adding that this revenue is certainly valued and needed. “We are fortunate that we have other sports that also generate revenue, yet not on the same level as football.”

Each athletics director affirmed there are also significant benefits football brings that are not associated with money.

“Our football and basketball programs have been a great community outreach. It seems to bring our community closer together,” Gowin said. “We have a great community here in Buckingham. They really care about our kids.”

Kane said the football team at Prince Edward and at most high schools can increase school spirit in the school and community.

“I am proud of the young men that our football program has developed to be successful in life and as well players that have gone on to play football and get a college education,” he said. “I am hopeful we can play football at some point this year. We have a lot of players returning and a JV team that tied for first place in the (James River District) last year.”

Owen highlighted two phrases or mottos that are staples of Central athletics — “Charger Pride” and “Once a Charger, Always a Charger.”

“Our fans, alumni, staff, students and parents have always been great supporters of all of our sports and activities,” he said. “I am sure everyone will miss football, volleyball and cheer this fall. Friday nights in the fall are a social event in Lunenburg County.”

Holt said there is nothing like Friday night under the lights of the football field.

“Our football program is such an important part of our community,” he said. “It is a gathering place where we can all come together to share in an atmosphere of Statesmen Pride — a place where memories are shared, memories are made and we can feel that true connection of ‘community’ here in Charlotte County.”