We are Marshall!
Strategy, Success Help Herd Turn Green into Black


Marshall's Wayne Bonner leads the celebration following Marshall's 20-10 bowl win over FIU.

Marshall's Wayne Bonner leads the celebration following Marshall's 20-10 bowl win over FIU.

July 12, 2012

By Jack Bogaczyk

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON – The color of money isn’t quite Kelly Green and White, but in Marshall Athletics, the use of dollars with sense translates into another hue.

The black.

Another fiscal year has come and gone, and David Steele, Marshall’s Associate Athletic Director for Administration and Business, confirms that the Thundering Herd will finish 2011-12 in the black … again, another year on the plus side under Herd Athletic Director-alumnus Mike Hamrick.

That kind of fiscal management and responsibility was one of the reasons MU President Stephen Kopp cited in giving Hamrick a five-year contract extension (through June 2017) this spring.

While Steele said the final numbers are not yet available in a budgeted year in the $22 million range, he said he is confident revenue will outpace expenses, and for a couple of large reasons.

Steele said the Herd’s football trip to the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., brought more than a victory over FIU. And the increasing enthusiasm about the building job in men’s basketball yielded the highest season ticket sale at the Henderson Center since the 1995-96 season.

In its seventh season in Conference USA, Marshall received a school-record amount in revenue sharing -- $2,314,775. The only two times in those seven years the Herd has topped $2 million were bowl years of 2009 (a $2,121,667 check) and 2011.

You can gauge victories by whatever means you want, but – bottom line – the biggest win last season for Coach Doc Holliday’s team was the overtime triumph over East Carolina in the season finale.

That win took Marshall to 6-6 and bowl eligibility … and almost $300,000 the athletic program wouldn’t have had by going 5-7.

“The numbers show how critical it is for us to have success, to get to a bowl,” Steele said.

In C-USA, a school gets to retain the first $100,000 in bowl tickets sold by a school. That money is paid to the participating school as part of its bowl reimbursement, which for Marshall in 2011-12 was $468,201.

Steele explained the C-USA bowl reimbursement policy is based upon a travel party number – including team, administration, band and cheerleaders – approved by the conference for a specific number of rooms and per diem and transportation.

That $468,201 reimbursement is not included in Marshall’s C-USA revenue sharing amount for the year.

While most schools would love to break even, some can profit if they use a little belt-tightening during travels … which Marshall did, and made $54,000 profit on its bowl trip.

That was in addition to $339,787 the Herd received as a bowl distribution that went to five C-USA teams. The seven conference members that missed the postseason only received $99,937.

A difference of $239,850 is meaningful, especially when added to the $54,000 profit from the bowl reimbursement.

For those who still have doubts about Marshall’s 2005 exit from the Mid-American Conference and the more expensive travel in Conference USA, consider that the school has received $11.955 million in revenue sharing in seven C-USA years – although the NCAA basketball units fund has been a pretty flat number because of a lack of bids (and victories) beyond Memphis.

Closer to home, Coach Tom Herrion’s basketball team not only gave the school its first NIT bid in 24 years, but also attracted 4,010 in season ticket sales and averaged 6,150 in attendance per home game – the highest average at “The Cam” since 6,513 in 1994-95 – then-Coach Billy Donovan’s debut season on the MU sideline.

With the Vision Campaign, the most ambitious capital campaign in Marshall Athletics history, supporters are being asked to help in what will be an impressive upgrade for facilities that will benefit all sports.

While Big Green donors – a record number of 3,207 in the past fiscal year -- will be stretched in coming years because of commitments to the major Vision undertaking, Steele said the Thundering Herd will be stretching the dollars as usual.

“Mike’s philosophy is just because certain dollars are budgeted, that doesn’t necessarily mean you spend it,” Steele said. “We’re always trying to make sure we maximize our resources. We start with a zero-based budget every year. We justify all of the things we need.

“With our booster clubs, we don’t just decide, ‘Hey, we’ve got $20,000 in this account, so we’re going to go out and spend it.’ There’s administrative oversight.

“With the booster clubs, each sport has a goal to make and this amount is built into the annual budget, so all expenditures are part of the budget and planned out with administrative oversight.”

Steele also gave significant credit to fellow associate ADs Jeff O’Malley and Beatrice Crane Banford for their oversight of the school’s 16 sports programs.

“Jeff and Beatrice do a great job working with their coaches, finding out what their needs are and figuring out how to make it all work,” Steele said.

The growth in Marshall Athletics since the jump from the MAC to C-USA is evident in another set of numbers.

In the first year of C-USA membership, 2005-06 Marshall’s budget numbers reported to the federal government on the Equity in athletics Disclosure Form were $17.633 million (expenses) and $17.946 million (revenue).

For 2010-11, expenses were $23.392 million, with revenues at $24.690 million (the 2011-12 federal report won’t be filed until October).

“Our administrators and coaches do a good job of understanding the resources we have available, and work within those limitations,” Steele said. “We always try to schedule regionally in non-conference, in order to keep our travel costs reasonable and under control.

“We always operate under a mode of watching our expenses … and going to a bowl, as you can see, really helps.”