What It Means For ASU Football To Play Notre Dame

October 04, 2013

Arizona State University’s football team was so successful last week in a win over USC, scoring 62 points in the victory, that the Trojans’ athletic director fired the team’s head coach.

Saturday the Sun Devils will be in Dallas. But it’s not a typical road game. They’ll be taking on Notre Dame, the true national brand of college football.

“Neutral-site games have come on the scene in the last five years, not only as a revenue-generator for the schools, but as an opportunity for the schools to publicize themselves,” said Michael Smith, who covers college athletics for the Sports Business Journal.

Smith said this kind of neutral site contest may be new for ASU, but it’s become an annual event for Notre Dame.

“The reason that Notre Dame plays these games is that, in the old fashioned sense, the team is their marketing tool to generate as much exposure for the university as possible,” Smith said.

ASU is expecting 15,000 fans and alumni to be in the stadium for kickoff, and millions more will be watching on TV. Notre Dame is the only university that has a contract with a national network, NBC, to carry its home games which, technically, this one in the heart of Texas is.

ASU Associate Athletic Director Steve Hank says the university’s exposure will be increased, in a good way.

“Having our brand associated with other top national brands does nothing but help us grow our brands which does benefit us through ticket sales, merchandise sales and other types of revenue streams,” Hank said.

At college football’s elite level, one home game could bring in $3-4 million.
Hank acknowledges how important that can be, but he’s quick to mention the benefits of a game like Saturday’s.

“We like bringing quality opponents into Sun Devil Stadium on a non-conference basis for our fans to enjoy. But it also does provide an opportunity for us when we take our show on the road,” Hank said.

Smith said the big money reality of college athletics almost demands that universities play high profile road and neutral site games. And he’s convinced ASU’s football program—even with some glimpses of success over the years—needs help overcoming some challenges.

“I think typically when you think of Arizona State’s football brand, you think it’s a tough sell,” Smith said. “It’s a hot time of year. The program has gone through ebbs and flows in terms of success. They don’t always play in front of a packed house. They’re in a pro market, competing against other professional sports and golf tournaments that are competition for the entertainment dollar."

That was not a short list. The Sun Devils will try to cross some of those negatives off when they take the field against Notre Dame on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Arizona.