This Saturday the 13th on ESPN3 I will be covering the Western Michigan at Idaho college football game.  Kickoff is set for 2pm PST.

Both teams play in the FBS level of college football and neither is considered a football power.  For years Idaho competed in the Big Sky conference of Division 1AA, now FCS.  In over 100 years of football, Western Michigan has never won a bowl game.

Last year both teams struggled with new head coaches, posting 1-11 records.  Both were paid well to start this year on the road against a foe from one of the power 5 conferences.  Western Michigan was at Purdue and Idaho traveled to Florida.

Fielding a college football team is expensive, but the potential for profit to the school is high.  Purdue paid Western Michigan $525,000 to come play them this year.  Idaho did even better, getting a payout from Florida for $975,000.  That game in Florida was postponed and then canceled due to rain and lightening.  Still, Florida honored their commitment to Idaho and paid the Vandals the full amount.  Big money payouts like this seem to be on the rise.  The Florida game was a record for Idaho.  They set their previous record the year before with $950,000 coming from Florida State.

This year’s athletic budget for the University of Idaho was $15.4 million.  Getting nearly $1 million from one football game is huge for the Vandals.  Their athletic director, Rob Spear, said these football payouts account for roughly 20% of their athletic budget, up from 8% a few years ago.

And the payouts will continue to get bigger.  Next year the Vandals will go play USC and get $1.1 million and Auburn will pay them $1 million.

Men’s basketball and football are often lumped in together as the “revenue” generating college teams that support all the others.  The numbers for the University of Idaho are a bit mixed.  Taken from a study of their 2012-2013 budget…

Total Sports budget:  $15.1 million

Football revenue:  $5.1 million

Men’s basketball revenue:  $132,000.  This team brought in the second most revenue, clearly nowhere near as much as football.

So, while football was bringing in a lot of money, it came nowhere near enough to cover the expenses for all sports.  Men’s basketball surprisingly brought in far less revenue.

A University of Idaho economics professor did a study a few years back.  In it he maintained all of Vandals sports programs benefited the local Moscow, Idaho economy to the tune of $34 million.  Most of this coming from visiting teams and fans.

These numbers, however, pale in comparison to other athletic powerhouses.  Florida, the team that paid Idaho $975,000 to play a football game that never happened, has a yearly athletic budget greater than $103 million!  But even that number seems small compared to the Texas sized numbers for the University of Texas.  For the 2012-2103 school year Texas athletics generated $165.7 million in revenue and had an operating budget of $146.8 million.  That is some serious money.