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Thursday nights help pay Bulldogs' bills

By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
July 30, 2002
Membership in the Southeastern Conference certainly has its privileges. For Mississippi State University, it's a good thing.
At the recent SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., the 12 athletic directors from the SEC met to divvy up the spoils from the preceding athletic season. For a $50 membership fee, the 12 schools got to cut up a total revenue of some $95.7 million.
Templeton told the audience that the big pie was not equally divided. Mississippi State took home the largest check, some $8.4 million. Alabama got the next biggest at $8.1 million. Vanderbilt took home the least at just over $6.6 million.
The reason for the spread comes by way of an ESPN Football contract, specifically, Thursday Night Football.
Mississippi State has embraced being tapped by ESPN to play on Thursday nights. They had two games last year, a season opening game with the University of Memphis and the Thanksgiving night Egg Bowl with arch-rival Ole Miss.
And ESPN likes the Bulldogs.
While the Bulldogs like having the stage, don't look for Tennessee and Florida to join them.
The Egg Bowl, however, will remain a part of Thanksgiving Night for the foreseeable future.
It's good for us, Ole Miss and ESPN," he said.
With the lowest athletic budget of the 12 SEC schools, State has to find creative ways to stay competitive. The athletic budget for the 2001-02 year came in at $23.938 million.
By comparison, the University of Tennessee's budget is $60 million. Florida's is $48 million. LSU, South Carolina and Kentucky come in at $40 million. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are at $26 and $25 million respectively.
The revenue to pay the budget comes from students, ticket sales, fees, club boxes, suites and television.
While Templeton said he supports Title IX for equality in women's sports, it's still the boys who produce the big dough.
Football brings in 44 percent of State's revenue. Men's basketball brings in 10 percent and baseball chips in two percent.
The TV-rich contracts of the SEC helps bring in the rest. Templeton cited just how important the SEC title game is.
State played in the SEC title game in 1998 against Tennessee.
Conversely, the nine women's sports at State generated only $52,000.
The end result of the revenue and expenditures is a football program led by the fourth winningest active coach in the nation in Jackie Sherrill. A basketball team that won 27 games and won the SEC Tournament title. A top-notch baseball program led by the widely respected Ron Polk. A women's basketball team that has made the NCAA's two out of the past three years, and NCAA berths in soccer, tennis, golf and softball.