University of Wyoming Athletic Director: Discussion to Drop Football Program to FCS is ‘Completely Illogical’
There's no good reason to even discuss moving Cowboy Football down a level to play in the Football Championship Subdivision, according to University of Wyoming Athletics Director Tom Burman.
And it's not, Burman says, a move that would result in savings for the school or the state.
"It does frustrate me at times," Burman says. "We've had a governor say 'it's not gonna happen;' we've had a legislative body say 'it's not gonna happen,' but for some reason we allow this dialogue to continue -- for the most part, in the media."
Burman says that's frustrating, because it's not a topic discussed within the university.
"I can honestly say I've never been to a meeting where the topic was 'what level should we play?'" Burman says. "Maybe now that Coach Bohl has kind of turned the program and we're starting to move in the right trajectory, [the discussion about FCS vs. FBS] will die for a little while."
Over the years, the topic about whether Wyoming's football program should continue to compete at the Division I level (now FBS, for Football Bowl Subdivision) or drop to Division II (now FCS, for Football Championship Subdivision).
The goal of those who support the idea, particularly of late, has largely been to save money -- which Burman says is not the likely outcome of a process that would do more harm than good.
Even having the conversation, particularly in the media, hurts the university, Burman says.
"It hurts us in recruiting every time that is brought up and every time it gets media play." Burman says. "Because our competitors send that story to every kid that we're both recruiting."
He says the conversation, which centers largely around hypothetically realizing a savings in the midst of the financial crisis at UW, doesn't need to be had because the football program not a place that, if squeezed, would result in a savings for the school.
According to Burman, the budget is roughly at $35 million, while schools playing in the Big Sky Conference -- at FCS level -- are generally in the range of $20 million.
"Which sounds like, to an outsider, 'holy cow -- we could save fifteen million dollars,'" Burman adds.
"That logic is flawed," Burman says.
UW gets roughly $3.4 million annually from the Mountain West Conference, whereas schools in the Big Sky -- an FCS-level conference -- get roughly $100,000, according to Burman.
"So there's a $3.3 million delta right there," says Burman.
Meanwhile, the Cowboy Joe Club generates $4.7 million each year, according to Burman. But that number would shrink to an estimated $2 million annually should UW football drop to the FCS, Burman says.
"And I think, initially, it would be significantly less," Burman says.
Asking Cowboy Joe members from across the country how a drop to FCS would affect their contributions, Burman says most members would simply stop giving money.
"Now would they come back somewhere down the road? Maybe," Burman says. "But their initial anger and frustration, they would drop immediately."
Further revenue comes in from season ticket sales, which Burman says total roughly $2 million each year.
"When I was at Portland State [an FCS-level program], we sold $150,000 in season tickets," says Burman.
"The cycle starts to go, and pretty soon you start adding all this up and you're like 'holy cow, there really is no savings,'" Burman adds.
And to reduce the annual budget from $35 million to $20 million would take years because of game contracts and existing multi-year contracts with coaches.
"So you can't just reduce it tomorrow, or you're going to end up at litigation," Burman says.
"The University of Wyoming is not going backwards," Burman says. "We're not going to drop down and play in the FCS."