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San Jose State counting on football ‘revenue games’ to increasingly fund entire department

If you’re a college football fan at any level, chances are you’ve heard the term ‘revenue games’ or ‘guarantee games.’ For the uninitiated, this is typically where a big Power Five program will pony up six-figures or more to a Group of Five or FCS team to travel to their stadium in the non-conference schedule. Generally the games are anything but close and more along the lines of a glorified practice for the bigger programs as they tune-up for conference play or better opponents down the road.

The San Francisco Chronicle took a deep dive into this practice at San Jose State this week and the numbers they uncovered were pretty eye-opening given some of the amounts involved and just how much the football team has cashed in over the years:

That (Alabama) game was part of a very profitable run for the Spartans, who have played as many revenue games as any school in the country. The result is almost always a beatdown on the field. Since 2010, the Spartans are 0-13 in revenue games and have been outscored 516-155.

But the practice also has brought millions into the university’s athletic program. Over the course of those 13 games, the Spartans have pocketed $9.4 million. They’ll make another $1 million Saturday at Oregon. The athletic department says it couldn’t function at its current level without the games.


Getting eight-figures over the years is nothing to overlook at a Mountain West program and the Chronicle notes that nearly six percent of the entire athletic department budget ($1.525 million of the overall $26.5 million figure) in 2018 will come directly from SJSU playing at Oregon and Washington State this season.

Funny enough, the piece also makes mention of the flip side to all these games too:

Sometimes, San Jose State is on the paying end. It gave UC Davis $400,000 to pay a Week 1 visit this year; the Aggies not only got the money but beat the Spartans 44-38.

The school is far from the only one who uses these football paydays to help the rest of the department but the niche they’ve developed is certainly notable for how prolific things have become in San Jose.