Texas A&M University made only about $20,000 from Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy last season, according to the school.
Football tickets and suites were already sold out before the quarterback, a redshirt freshman a year ago, took a snap. Radio, television and most sponsorship agreements were locked into long-term contracts. Booster donations were largely tied to seat locations.
The only money that can be directly attributed to Manziel is $20,000 from a football fundraising dinner where donors paid to sit at his table, and a portion of the team’s $60,000 in royalties from the sale of football jerseys, said university spokesman Jason Cook.
“People draw the conclusion that we make millions from Johnny winning the Heisman,” Athletic Director Eric Hyman said in an interview. “I’d say we’ve gotten more financial benefit from joining what’s widely perceived as the best football conference in the country and having a winning program.”
The school’s own analysis shows it got more benefit from joining the Southeastern Conference -- winners of seven consecutive national championships -- than anything its quarterback has earned by capturing college football’s highest individual honor.
“When someone makes the leap that his award has generated millions for the school, the public assumes it must be,” said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California. “When you peel it back and look underneath, you realize most of these revenue streams are fixed.”
Last season, the Aggies, who finished 11-2 and tied with Georgia for No. 5 in the Associated Press writers’ poll, got $37 million worth of media exposure between Nov. 10, 2012, and Jan. 6, 2013, according to Joyce Julius & Associates, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company that measures the impact of corporate sponsorships. Eric Wright, president and executive director of research, said it didn’t measure what the impressions would have been if Manziel didn’t win the award.
The honor itself probably didn’t help convince high school players to decide to go to the college, said Hyman, the athletic director. Instead, the team’s recruiters benefited more from coach Kevin Sumlin’s up-tempo offense, the team’s national ranking and an opportunity to play in the SEC.
Television rights, sponsorships and tickets were already sold before Manziel moved into the starting lineup, and were little affected by his ascension last season, A&M’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Toole said.
Texas A&M received $9.7 million in TV revenue for the 2012 season, and annual increases have already been determined through the end of the SEC’s contract in 2023-2024 with CBS and 2033-2034 with ESPN.
The school hasn’t sold more tickets; 82,600-seat Kyle Field has been sold out since 2011. Texas A&M increased season ticket prices between $40 and $50 depending on the section last year and another $25 to $35 this season. Toole said ticket sales are expected to generate $25.4 million this season, up from $23.1 million last season because of two additional home games and the price increases.
“If we had an 11-2 season, won the Cotton Bowl and he finished third, we’d be doing just as well because we already sold everything,” Toole said in an interview.
Texas A&M administrators say they can’t attribute increased attendance or fundraising to Manziel or his Heisman Trophy, either. Applications increased 9.7 percent to an estimated 34,547 this year, after increases of 5.9 percent and 11.6 the two previous years.
Joe Pettibon, A&M’s associate vice president for academic services, said applications have been going up for a decade because of a growing number of Texas high school graduates, an extensive statewide recruitment program and a scholarship program created in 2004.
University fundraising went up 44.4 percent this year to a record $534.4 million in gifts and pledges through the beginning of September, partly fueled by a campaign to renovate Kyle Field that had been planned for several years, said Mark Klemm, campaign director for the Texas A&M Foundation.
Asked if the increase in giving this year was any reflection on Manziel’s Heisman, Klemm said, “You can’t remotely say that. The planning for the stadium started before we joined the SEC and before Johnny Manziel became our starting quarterback. It was just an amazing coincidence of timing.”
As far as expenses, Texas A&M had no Heisman marketing budget at all, according to spokesman Jason Cook. Instead, the school let cable television programming, traditional public relations efforts and mentions on social media spread the word.
Manziel is again in the running for the award, which was first given to Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago in 1935. He has passed for 2,594 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, while leading the team with 497 yards rushing.
Texas A&M Foundation President Eddie Davis wrote an editorial in the Texas A&M Foundation magazine Spirit in fall of 2011 titled: “Do Football Victories Influence Giving?”
After reviewing data dating back to 1996, he concluded there was usually no correlation between the two, noting that donors often plan a gift for years before giving the school the money. Nevertheless, he concluded the column with a thought on why a good football season -- like a Heisman Trophy -- is still important to the university and its fans.
“And, you know, to hell with the statistics,” he said. “It just makes us all happier people.”
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