The tenuous line between amateur and professional play has been blurred and debated extensively over the past few years. Questions of player pay, school and class requirements, and the actual value of scholarships have all been popping-up in sports and mainstream media. This past week, however, another complication in the differentiation between amateurs and pros arose in Philadelphia, home to the suddenly-successful Temple Owls football team.
In an article published on Philly.com, mayor-elect Jim Kenney discussed potential plans to build an on-campus stadium at Temple University. The ultimate conclusion to the conversation was that Temple officials “must address the worries of neighbors before he [Kenney] can endorse the school’s plan to build a football stadium on campus.” Kenney’s position is understandable considering Temple’s location situated among neighborhoods and homes in north Philadelphia. Such a project would presumably upset many local residents, and the university would need to allay the concerns of traffic, noise, and added congestion many residents naturally expect. In an added wrinkle, the article observes that the area in question is represented by City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, with whom Kenney would likely be wary of fighting so early in his administration.
As a result of not having a stadium on-campus, Temple uses Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, for its home games. “The Linc,” as it is called, is in a different section of the city altogether, and although reachable by public transit from Temple, is a far cry from a home-field entity. Cavernous and difficult to brand for Temple-specific events, it is a clear distant second to having an on-campus stadium. But what makes the situation worse for Temple, where the university bristles against the current status quo, and what other athletic departments should pay attention to, is that it must pay $1 million in rent plus stadium operations fees, while collecting nothing for parking and concessions.
When comparing this setup to another in-state pro/college stadium agreement, it looks unquestionably lopsided. The University of Pittsburgh, which shares Heinz Field with the Pittsburgh Steelers, also pays a fee for usage that comes in the form of a percentage of ticket sales (as opposed to a fixed figure), but takes home revenue from parking and concessions.
What makes the Temple arrangement seem additionally unusual is that both the stadium and the university are public entities. The Linc, although run by the Eagles, was built with public funds, and Temple is a state university. In essence, the city is making its largest public university pay a private, third-party NFL franchise to rent a publicly-owned building, then blocking that same school from using those funds to build its own stadium and cut-out the NFL middleman.
There are seven FBS schools that use NFL stadiums meant for professional teams. Like with the specifics of the Temple/Lincoln Financial Field agreement, the details of each arrangement are a bit unclear. Even mayor-elect Kenney is uncertain about the nuances of stadium-rental policies, as his claims Pitt uses Heinz field for free were refuted by a former Pitt official. However, the current discussions happening in Philadelphia show that it is vital athletic departments understand the ins-and-outs of merging their facilities with professional teams and maximize the utility for their own schools. Being aware of similar arrangements and looking to future expansion possibilities prevent schools from being taken advantage of and is just good administrating.