Weighing the costs of WSU football

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) When we talk money in regards to Wichita State football, President John Bardo says it's not all about bottom line dollars.

"Will we break even on football? No, guaranteed. Won't do it."

"You have to look at cost benefit in a very different way than just simply the bottom line," Bardo explained. "Does this sport make money, or not? I can already tell you upfront we are going to lose money. If you take that model, we will 100 percent guaranteed lose money. That's just a reality, so the question is, where is the ROI that matters."

Return on Investment. That's the question the University is researching through a third party, and they expect to get a report back at the end of May or early June.

But for some insight, we reached out to a school that recently went through this same process. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte began planning for a new football program in 2008, they played their first game in 2013, and now find themselves playing at college football's highest level.

They say the cost to start the program was about $10 million, not including building a stadium, which will cost them another $45 million. Bardo told us today, that WSU would play in Cessna if football comes back, and that it would take about a $20 million renovation to do so.

Now that UNC Charlotte is operational, it costs another roughly $10 million per year to operate. Big numbers, but a cost in hindsight, administrators say was absolutely worth it.

"No question. Best branding we've ever had for our university," said Charlotte AD Judy Rose.

That branding is something Wichita State sees a potential benefit in, as something that could go far beyond a bottom line profit for football.

"The issue is, how does it affect the campus? Does it affect our graduation rate? Does it affect the willingness of students to be here? Does it affect the perception that this is a happening location where it's ok to be?" wondered Bardo. "If it affects those things, then there is an indirect ROI that you can't pick up otherwise."

And if Wichita State ever wants to move from the Missouri Valley to a bigger name conference, football may be the golden ticket to do so. It was for UNC Charlotte, who now plays in Conference USA.

"In the national landscape, football is king," admitted Rose. "Now, we all want to be good at basketball and everything else that we have, but the decisions that were being made for re-alignment had nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with football."