Butts in Seats: Helping the UVA Athletic Department Fill Scott Stadium

21 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2019

See all articles by Sean Martin

Sean Martin

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

James R. Detert

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

Carla Williams, the director of athletics for the University of Virginia (UVA), considered what steps the Athletics Department needed to take in the coming years to increase revenues. In 2017, UVA athletics revenues totaled approximately $100.6 million, making it the 27th-highest revenue program in the United States among schools for which this information was available (private schools did not need to publicly report financial information). The UVA Cavaliers—or, as they were known locally, the Wahoos or 'Hoos—had a number of athletics programs that were consistently ranked among the nation's elite. Still, football fan attendance lagged well behind what Williams thought it should be for a school of UVA's size and reputation. This was a big problem because the money to fund all aspects of a high-performing athletics department, including scholarships, facilities, and coaching salaries, depended in a major way on the revenue generated by the flagship sports—football and men's basketball. At a high level, the question facing Williams was simple: How could UVA get butts in seats at home football games? However, thinking about all the moving parts involved in this question, it got a lot more complicated.

Excerpt

UVA-OB-1289

Aug. 8, 2019

Butts in Seats: Helping the UVA Athletics Department Fill Scott Stadium

Carla Williams, the director of athletics for the University of Virginia (UVA), surveyed the state of her university's various sports programs in 2019 and considered what steps the athletics department needed to take in the coming years to increase revenues (see Exhibit 1 for the 2018–19 revenue goals across UVA sports). In 2017, UVA athletics revenues totaled approximately $ 100.6million, making it the 27th-highest revenue program in the United States among schools for which this information was available (private schools did not need to publicly report financial information).

The UVA Cavaliers—or, as they were known locally, the Wahoos or 'Hoos—had a number of athletics programs that were consistently ranked among the nation's elite. Other programs had opportunities for improvement. For example, the football team had a win–loss record of 8–5 in its 2018 campaign, with a convincing victory over the University of South Carolina in its postseason appearance in the Belk Bowl. It had even cracked the Associated Press Top 25 ranking for a brief period during the year. This was a significant improvement over the prior several years, and the most wins since 2011. Still, while the football program appeared to be moving in the right direction on the field, fan attendance lagged well behind what Williams thought it should be for a school of UVA's size and reputation. This was a big problem because the money to fund all aspects of a high-performing athletics department depended in a major way on the revenue generated by the flagship sports—football and men's basketball. For example, revenue from those sports was needed to fund things like scholarships, facilities, and coaching salaries in all the other varsity sports where ticket sales were miniscule in comparison. At a high level, the question facing Williams was simple: How could UVA get butts in seats at home football games? However, thinking about all the moving parts involved in this question, it got a lot more complicated.

Carla Williams and UVA Athletics

. . .

Keywords: athletics, University of Virginia, football, female protagonist, UVA, sports

Suggested Citation

Martin, Sean and Detert, James R., Butts in Seats: Helping the UVA Athletic Department Fill Scott Stadium. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-1289. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3438637

Sean Martin (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

James R. Detert

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

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