When Cal's football team visits Stanford this November for the annual Big Game, the Bears athletic department will take in a lot less money than it does during seasons when the contest is played at Memorial Stadium.
Pac-10 teams split gate revenue for rivalry games, meaning Stanford will write Cal a check for half of the money it makes from ticket sales. But with Stanford Stadium's capacity being just 50,000, the Bears receive substantially less revenue from Stanford than they give to the Cardinal in years when the game is played at the 71,799-seat Memorial Stadium.
Stanford Stadium was torn down and rebuilt for the 2007 season and capacity was shrunk from 85,000 to 50,000. That meant the Cardinal went from giving more money to Cal to receiving more money for the Big Game.
"When we saw the size they were going to, we knew it was (35,000) seats at $60 a seat (difference) — it doesn't take a lot of imagination to know that could be a lot of money that changes," Cal deputy athletic director Steve Holton said. "It's just the way it is."
The discrepancy is most pronounced for the Apple Cup. Washington's Husky Stadium holds 72,500, while Washington State's Martin Stadium has a capacity of 35,117. And while the imbalance between Stanford and Cal is substantial now, the gap will be closed in 2012 when the Bears complete renovation of Memorial Stadium and capacity is reduced to its planned target of 63,370.
"The gap is going to close, but we're still going to be talking about 10,000 seats different," Holton said. "Obviously, if it stayed where it is, it would be an issue. I don't know if you can control any more than that. You can say it's 10,000 seats, but the reality is it will be two quality facilities. Those are choices we both made to handle our program."
The Los Angeles schools are the only ones that don't have much of a mismatch in capacity for their rivalry game. USC plays its home games at the 92,000-seat Los Angeles Coliseum, while UCLA's home is Pasadena's Rose Bowl, which holds 91,500.
Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium seats 71,706, while Arizona Stadium holds 57,400. Oregon's Autzen Stadium has a capacity of 54,000, and Oregon State's Reser Stadium holds 45,674.
"I never really understood the revenue sharing situation for rivalry games," Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said. "It seems to me you might just as well have the home teams keep the gate with a modest guarantee for the visiting team. Some schools feel more strongly about it than others."
Cal, like all financially strapped athletic departments across the country, could benefit if Stanford had a larger facility. It's just another obstacle the university is negotiating to try to survive in a poor economy.
At last weekend's Pac-10 meetings in San Francisco, a handful of cost-cutting measures were discussed. Football teams may no longer stay in hotels the night before a home game, and media guides may become an online-only reference. Cal already has decided to take buses to its road game at UCLA this season rather than charter a flight.
Note: Pac-10 executives reportedly shot down a proposal to move the conference schedule back to eight games for football. In the current format, teams play every other team in the conference, a round-robin schedule that began in 2006.
Contact Jonathan Okanes at firstname.lastname@example.org.