How does Stanford compete with the big boys?

stanford.jpgCertainly not through ticket sales. With a stadium that only seats 50,000, about half that of venues in the SEC and Big Ten conferences, the school's football program generated just $9.7 million in 2012. Ohio State picked up $41 million. In merchandise sales, another key revenue source, Stanford ranked 42nd this year, behind lowly Texas Tech. Yet Stanford, which plays USC at the Coliseum on Saturday night, is ranked fourth in this week's BCS standings, an impressive showing for a school that's focused on quality education. How can that happen? From the WSJ:

The way Stanford keeps up in the college-football arms race is to lean on private donations. As a result, almost everything the football program touches is endowed, from each of the school's 85 football scholarships to David Shaw's head-coaching position. Stanford's offensive coordinator is even known as the Andrew Luck Director of Offense in honor of an anonymous gift in 2012. "Many have looked at Stanford to say: 'How can we make that happen at our place?'" said Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir. Given that Stanford sits in the heart of Silicon Valley, and many of its graduates are making untold millions, it seems like fundraising should be easy. But most football donors are well past 50, and younger donors can be hard to find, since football was mostly an afterthought on campus until recently. In its attempt to build a football program this way, though, Stanford does benefit from a specialized network of benefactors most schools can only dream about.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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