Allen’s high profile was a boon for UW

by Lew Freedman of Cody Enterprise
Who wouldn’t want a $159 million free gift?

The debate over the compatibility of the mission of colleges educating their students balanced with the value of intercollegiate athletics has pretty much gone on for a century or more.

Is it worth it? That has long been a question that trails the cost of college sports, whether it is at the University of Wyoming or elsewhere.

When people hear “Harvard” they think academics. When people hear “Alabama” they think college football championships.

There are hundreds of colleges in the middle that compete in intercollegiate sports. For every NCAA Division I school there are way more Division II and Division III, NAIA members and junior colleges. In theory, the mission of all is to stress education.

A Division I playing commitment, especially in football and basketball, is expensive. Scholarships, equipment and travel all add up.

The University of Wyoming is not a superpower, but it is an institution that cares about sports and has a statewide constituency.

For this school year, from the beginning of fall practice through the National Football League draft and slightly beyond in May, the school hired a Michigan-based research company to monitor the “media exposure valuation” of the football program.

The conclusion was that Cowboy football generated $159 million worth of value through publicity, or basically free advertising. That is an impressive dollar number for a team that plays in the Mountain West Conference, finished 8-5, and competed in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in the postseason.

It’s hard to imagine what kind of return is produced by a team in the Southeastern Conference that finished 11-2, is on national television constantly, and went to the Sugar Bowl.

One special thing Wyoming had going for it this season was quarterback Josh Allen’s profile as a potential No. 1 draft pick by a pro team. Allen, the Cowboys and UW received tons of attention related to that.

The study was performed by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., checking out TV news coverage, print articles, and social media and internet coverage.

All of it was a boon to the university, though Allen’s situation is hardly to be underestimated. Through Jan. 1, when the playing season was over, the value of exposure was placed at $46.2 million. That was around one-third of the total.

The next several months of benefit pretty much accrued from the attention heaped on Allen. Where would he taken in the NFL draft? What team would choose him?

Allen was selected by the Buffalo Bills with the seventh overall pick during the April 26-28 draft. The exposure valuation was tracked for an additional two weeks afterwards.

“The benefits of successful athletics programs and the exposure they attract has been shown to improve overall student recruitment on college campuses across the country, increase alumni support and enhance fundraising,” the university stated.