How SIU football will reel in $1M in three games


Head football coach Nick Hill speaks with the team following SIU’s fall football scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

By Sean Carley

Saluki football will rake in a sizable amount of money over the next few years, regardless of how the team does on the field.

SIU will receive more than $1 million during the next three years while playing in football non-conference “guarantee” games, including Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic, according to documents obtained by the Daily Egyptian through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Salukis will face Florida Atlantic on Saturday, Memphis on Sept. 23, 2017 and Mississippi (“Ole Miss”) on Sept. 8, 2018. Florida Atlantic will pay SIU $390,000, while Memphis and Mississippi will pay the university $285,000 and $450,000, respectively, to participate in the contests.


At the most recent SIU Board of Trustees meeting earlier this week, athletic director Tommy Bell said the team will also travel to Kansas State in 2021 for $450,000.

What is a “guarantee” game?

A “guarantee” game is one in which the two teams competing are not seemingly on the same level of competition.

This happens often in football between Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) schools in the early season. For the FBS schools — in this case: FAU, Memphis and Ole Miss — teams like to face an opponent of lower caliber in the first weeks of the season to smooth out their squad before facing tougher opponents.

For the FCS schools, such as SIU, the idea of traveling to compete against a higher-caliber team is not an appealing one.

That being said, there are plenty of times FCS schools have defeated FBS schools, such as the famous 2007 matchup when Appalachian State defeated then-No. 5 Michigan. SIU won two straight games against FBS opponents in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, defeating Indiana and Northern Illinois.

Players race for the ball during SIU's fall football scrimmage Aug. 20, 2016, at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)
Players race for the ball during SIU’s fall football scrimmage Saturday at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

From 1978 to 2013, FBS schools won about 82 percent of games against FCS opponents.


To sweeten the deal, FBS schools throw in a monetary guarantee to make the games worth the smaller schools’ while.

In 2014 alone, FBS schools doled out more than $12 million to FCS schools, with the highest being the $1 million tab Michigan paid Appalachian State.

Why do schools agree to these games if they know they’re unlikely to win?

For the purest sake, the money makes it worth it.

What is often lost in the craziness of the finances of collegiate athletics are the expenses necessary to operate a Division I program.

Fifty-eight percent (134 of 231) of public Division I schools required to report their tax records turned a profit last year, according to USA Today’s college finances database. Only 44.5 percent (104 of 231) reported a profit of more than $100,000.

SIU Director of Athletics Tommy Bell poses for a portrait in his office Oct. 6, 2015. ( file photo)
SIU Director of Athletics Tommy Bell poses for a portrait in his office Oct. 6, 2015. ( file photo)

Take out the Power 5 conference schools — all of which are FBS — and those numbers drop to 94 profit schools, 66 of which were more than $100,000.

Amid the Illinois state budget crisis, these guarantees can help provide crucial funds for the university.

Are guarantee games limited to just football?

Guarantee games are often established for basketball as well, just for lesser payouts.

There are multiple reasons for this, but the biggest are because basketball teams require less personnel to travel and there’s typically less revenue coming in from basketball.

When SIU men’s basketball faces Louisville this year, the Dawgs will receive a $95,000 guarantee, as first reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Anna Spoerre contributed to this report.

Sports editor Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SCarleyDE.

To stay up to date with all your SIU news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.