IU football team hitting 20-year financial highs

Lost in the firing of Indiana University football coach Bill Lynch is the fact that the team is making some serious progress—at least financially.

Despite a less than stellar showing on the field, IU still managed to increase attendance and revenue during this football season over 2009. Throw in the $3 million IU scored for moving its game with Penn State to Maryland, and Hoosiers Athletics Director Fred Glass has something to smile about.

Here are a few facts to remember. During former Athletics Director Rick Greenspan’s last year in 2008, IU’s average attendance was a woeful 31,700 in the 52,929-seat Memorial Stadium. Average revenue generated per home game that year was $445,933.

Last year, the first under Glass’ direction, IU averaged 41,833 fans and $698,936 per home game. Those were high water marks not seen in Bloomington since the early 1990s.

This year, the Hoosiers averaged 42,991 in attendance and $705,573 cash generated for six home games. It’s important to remember, that these increases were made in a season when Purdue and Ohio State were off the home schedule, and those two games typically sell out. IU only sold out one game this year—Michigan—but it had solid crowds for home games against Akron (42,258), Arkansas State (40,480) and Iowa (42,991).

Glass has worked hard in the last two years to build momentum for his program, but in a conversation with him shortly before the Purdue game, it was clear he understood that keeping Lynch for the final year of his contract in 2011 jeopardized the progress.

Glass’ desire to honor Lynch’s contract was palpable leading into the final game.

“I think contracts should matter,” Glass told me shortly before the Purdue game. “At a starting point, we should honor contracts.”

The decision to fire Lynch, in the end, had as much to do with financial gains and the potential for the football team to score millions more for the school’s athletics department than anything else.

If Glass thinks he can push revenue generated per game to $1 million, it makes perfect sense to spend $1.5 million to $2 million annually on a football coach. It could be argued that by hiking the average revenue per home game $259,640, Glass already has the justification to seek a top-level football coach.

In mid-November, Glass spoke to me about “simmering frustration” from the football team’s student and alumni supporters. He admitted that boiled over after the 83-20 loss at Wisconsin Nov. 13, adding that school supporters “were madder than a hornet,” and hadn’t been shy about letting him know.

On Nov. 18, Glass told me, “Sure, [the loss to Wisconsin] was embarrassing. Coach Lynch understands that, and now we’re moving on.”

Now, it’s clear which direction Glass—and Lynch—are headed.

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