How high school football revenue drives local athletic programs |

For most high schools across the country, football drives revenue for most high school athletic programs. Here’s a good look inside the numbers for some high school programs in Northeast Mississippi.

PONTOTOC – On the first high school football Friday night of the year, the parking spots along Main Street in Pontotoc were filled an hour before kickoff.

By the time the Warriors took the field against Houston, the line at the home gate was still a dozen people deep as the cash box pushed capacity.

At schools of all sizes across Northeast Mississippi, football attracts hundreds and sometimes thousands of fans to high schools each week. Five home games are community celebrations and one of the state’s strongest traditions.

With creative marketing and support from local businesses, those five Friday night home dates are also a revenue source with the potential to boost a high school’s entire athletic program.

“Football is the moneymaker,” Pontotoc Athletic Director Josh Dowdy said. “More than any other sport, it’s going to attract the most fans and bring in the most money. That’s always been the case. Especially in Mississippi.”

Dowdy estimates that between $20,000 and $25,000 of his $140,000 athletic program budget goes toward the football team. With helmets, pads, cleats and jerseys, it costs around $900 to buy equipment for one of Pontotoc’s 65 varsity football players.

In order to function, high school athletic departments need to raise money beyond the budget provided by the school district. Pontotoc averages between 1,300 and 1,500 paying customers at home football games. At $6 a ticket, the athletic department makes between $7,800 and $9,000 on those Friday nights. Dowdy estimates that 70 percent of the athletic department’s revenue across 15 varsity sports comes from football ticket sales.

And Pontotoc isn’t alone. Every high school athletic department with a football team relies on the ticket sales from its five home football games. Tickets for Tupelo’s home varsity football games are $7 at the door. With good weather, Athletic Director Eddie Moore estimates between 2,500 and 3,000 people attend each home game.

On really bad nights, the athletic department can make around $7,000 in revenue from ticket sales at the gate. At crowded games like the home opener against Corinth, that number rises to between $15,000 and $18,000 and has been as high as $20,000. Moore also estimates that season ticket passes raise another $30,000 each year.

Over the past two years at Tupelo High, revenue from ticket sales at football games was over 60 percent of all revenue from the athletic department’s 24 varsity sports. At both Pontotc and Tupelo, the revenue from football ticket sales goes into the broader athletic budget to benefit all sports with facility and equipment upgrades.

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