By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 27, 2009
FedEx Field will host a Big Ten game between Indiana and Penn State on Nov. 20, 2010, the second college football game to be played at the stadium next year as part of an effort by the Washington Redskins to attract high-profile college football games to their home in Landover.
The game originally was scheduled to be a home contest for the Hoosiers. In exchange for moving the contest to Landover -- which is little more than 200 miles from Penn State's campus in State College, Pa., and nearly 650 miles from Bloomington, Ind. -- Indiana will receive $3 million from the Redskins, roughly three times the revenue it would take in from a home game on campus.
Indiana Athletic Director Fred Glass said Russ Potts, a former University of Maryland athletics administrator and the owner of a sports promotional firm based in Winchester, Va., contacted him about three months ago on behalf of the Redskins to propose the idea of moving the Penn State game to FedEx Field.
After conferring with Indiana Coach Bill Lynch, Glass began negotiating a deal to make the switch.
Potts deferred all questions relating to the Indiana-Penn State game at FedEx Field to Redskins officials. Redskins Chief Operating Officer Mitch Gershman said Potts is partnering with the team to help attract "larger matchups" to its stadium.
The Redskins are in discussions with several other "high-profile" college teams about playing at FedEx Field in the next three to five years, according to Gershman, who declined to name specific programs. Virginia Tech will receive $2.35 million to play Boise State at FedEx Field on Oct. 2, 2010. The facility, which is the largest used by a professional sports team in the country, seats 91,704.
"We think it's good for our fan base and for our community," Gershman said. "We're always looking to bring more value to our fan base and to bring great events to the area."
In a similar scenario, Oklahoma agreed to move a home game against BYU next season to the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in exchange for $2.5 million.
Glass acknowledged economics played a significant factor in Indiana's interest in the proposal. When Glass approached Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany with the idea, he said Delany advised him on certain contractual elements. As part of the finalized deal, the Redskins will pay the full amount owed to Indiana prior to the game being played and the Hoosiers must sell 7,000 tickets.
"Candidly, we didn't want to do it if there wasn't going to be a significant financial benefit to doing it," Glass said.
David Carter, president of the Sports Business Group, a Los Angeles-based marketing firm, said such contests used to be novelties designed to appease alumni and boosters.
"Now it's simple economic reality that you have a school like Indiana, a very low revenue school in the Big Ten trying to compete in this era, it takes a lot of money to compete and it takes a lot of money to carve out any kind of national brand or national imprint," Carter said. "When you are faced with being able to make $3 million, I think the economics of that tends to win out rather quickly, even if some of your season ticket holders are not [excited] about the fact that that game is going to be replaced with some I-AA opponent at some point."
Glass said Indiana will make up for the lost home date by adding another division I-A opponent to its 2010 home slate.
"We rank second from the bottom in the Big Ten in terms of how much revenue we have to spend per sport," Glass said. "As such, we're in a conference where there's these giant aircraft carriers like Ohio State and Penn State and Michigan, and we're more like a PT boat or a cruiser.
"To survive and excel in this conference, I think we've got to do things maybe a little bit differently and maybe we're in a position where we can take some risks, if you will."
Glass cited other factors that also made the move seem attractive, including the opportunity to provide his players with a "bowl-like" experience and the chance to raise the program's profile in an area where it would like to recruit more heavily.
"We'd be naive to think that this is going to be predominantly an IU crowd," Glass said. "If we're pleasantly surprised and it is, that's great, but our understanding would be that this is going to be primarily a Penn State crowd, or certainly a majority Penn State crowd."