Bristling from criticism that our associations are money-grabbing exploiters of children, my counterpart from Colorado said, “If we were running our programs just to make money, we would do very many things very differently.” I knew exactly what he meant.
Because we care about the health and welfare of students, because we mean what we say that the athletic program needs to maximize the ways it enhances the school experience while minimizing academic conflicts, and because we try to model our claim that no sport is a minor sport when it comes to its potential to teach young people life lessons, we operate our programs in ways that make promoters, marketers and business entrepreneurs laugh, cry or cringe.
If money were the only object, we would seed teams and select sites to assure the teams that attracted the most spectators had the best chance to advance in our tournaments, regardless of the travel for any team or its fan base. If money were the only object, we would never schedule two tournaments to overlap and compete for public attention, much less tolerate three or four overlapping events. If money were the only object, we would allow signage like NASCAR events and promotions like minor league baseball games.
Those approaches to event sponsorship are not wrong; they’re just not right for us. And we will live with the consequences of our belief system.
During the 2012-13 school year, 438 of the MHSAA’s 2,097 District, Regional and Final tournaments lost money. Not a single site in golf, skiing or tennis made a single penny. Over 17 percent of all other sites brought in less revenue than the direct expenses incurred at the site. In no sport did every District, Regional and Final site have revenue in excess of direct expenses.
In fact, in only three sports – boys and girls basketball and football – is revenue so much greater than direct expenses overall that it helps to pay for all the other tournaments in which the MHSAA invests.
That’s right: invests. When we present our budget to our board, we talk about the MHSAA’s investment in providing tournament opportunities in all those sports and all those places that cannot sustain the cost of those events on their own.