Money Ball: Sports Funding

Taya Llapitan and Andrew Gotshall, Reporter

For many students, athletic programs throughout the year provide students with opportunities to work hard, build life skills, exercise, and socialize with peers. The variety of sports provided on campus diversify, and enrich many student’s high school experience. However, most don’t see the underlying workings of how these teams are funded or why some sports seem to get more than others. It may appear that some programs receive free gear or more perks but in reality, many, if not all sports heavily rely on fundraising, Casa Boosters, and the elusive gate money’s provided by ticket sales.

Athletic director Rick O’Brien provides transparency on the subject, detailing ticket sales and its revenue impact:

“The district, Petaluma City Schools, gives no funding for sports. Our athletic program is literally run on ticket sales. Football, for example, has the biggest gate of all our sports. All that gate money goes into a general athletic pot of money. It supports everything, boys and girls tennis, swimming, and badminton,” said O’Brien.

The gate revenue is how many sports simply exist, paying for the bare minimums required for teams to compete in local and state level competitions.

“The money from the gate revenue is used to pay CIF dues, NCS dues, officials dues and all that stuff. We buy essentials like shuttles and some of the grips for the handles and for tennis we buy the tennis balls for example. That all comes out of the gate revenue,” said O’Brien.  

O’Brien also noted how it is up to coaches and athletes to find the drive for fundraising and that some sports do more fundraising than others, giving them more cash flow.

“Anything that is sport specific, the teams either fundraise or go to boosters,” said O’Brien. “The school, nor the district stipends budgets for sports teams.”

Most teams do not have anyone collecting ticket sales simply because attendance is too low; thus, relying on teams with heavy fan attendance. The reasons for some sports getting more spectators is a combination of social and performance-based reasoning. For example, girls volleyball had a much higher attendance rate (and higher ticket sales) this year due to their at home success and the support from social media and word of mouth. Some sports by their very nature are not spectator friendly, such as track, which has only one home meet. Athletic trainer Heather Campbell explains why some sports may see higher participation due to more discipline and better coach to athlete relationships, fostering a healthy and competitive atmosphere conducive to spectators.

“A strong program is built from the foundation that is laid by the coach and the student-athlete leaders. To me if the coach is fair and consistent then the athletes will respect them and great things will happen,” said Campbell, “Not every team will have the talent to always win but from what I have seen throughout my time here is that when the athletes respect and trust the coach then even in a losing season there is the feeling of family.”

When spectator revenue can’t cover the “wants” of a team, many coaches look to Casa Boosters, an organization the collects and centralizes donations and writes grants on a need to need basis.

“Boosters is Casa’s main funding committee and has been supporting our schools’ sports teams in matters of safety, success, and swag. “Boosters is AMAZING. They fund everyone equally from what I have seen,” said Campbell.