Give and take

Missouri Southern took on Haskell Indian Nations University Sept. 4 in Joplin. The Lions won 66-9.

Missouri Southern took on Haskell Indian Nations University Sept. 4 in Joplin. The Lions won 66-9.

Brennan Stebbins

Paying money to an inferior opponent for a game may seem like a cheap way to rack up wins, but it’s an increasingly common practice in college sports. Missouri Southern is no different.

The Lions paid Haskell Indian Nations University $10,000 for two football games, $7,500 for a game at Haskell in Lawrence, Kan., last year, and $2,500 for a contest in Joplin earlier this season. The Lions won last year’s game 51-0, and strolled to a 66-9 win this year.

Southern Athletics Director Sallie Beard said $10,000 isn’t just a generic amount, and that several factors go into deciding on the cash total.

“It’s usually whatever we think we can entice a team to play for,” Beard said. “It varies, the team may be as eager to come and play us because they’ve got an open date in their schedule for whatever reason that they want to fill, so you may get a team for a relatively small amount. It kind of depends on the circumstances; there isn’t any set fee.”

Paying an opponent and then traveling to that school’s town for a game, as Southern paid Haskell, is less common. David Boyce, MIAA sportswriter for the Kansas City Star, said he didn’t understand the decision.

“That doesn’t make too much sense,” Boyce said. “Maybe they couldn’t find a second non-conference game, but I don’t know why any team would pay to play at another school.”

Boyce said usually the money paid through contracts covers travel expenses for the visiting team, so it doesn’t add up for Southern to pay Haskell and then travel to Lawrence, especially since Haskell also made money from ticket sales and concessions. Money aside, Boyce didn’t care for the match up itself.

“I hate when schools like Missouri Southern play a school like Haskell because I don’t think the program gets anything out of it and I don’t think the fans get anything out of it,” he said. “You only have so many home games and before the game starts you know that Missouri Southern will beat Haskell by any score they want.

“As a media person I don’t like it,” he added. “I personally would never cover a game like that. I would find another game to cover.”

Beard defended the decision.

“At the time we had a new coach,” she said. “I think he was anxious to see his team play and I don’t think he cared where we played.

“Quite frankly, I doubt if we would have got Haskell to come two years in a row,” Beard added.

Beard said Haskell was the second team in seven years the University paid for a football game. In 2002 Southern paid Greenville (Ill.) around $3,000 for a game in Joplin the Lions won 63-0. MIAA schools aren’t just the teams shelling out money for games, however. Washburn was paid $25,000 this season to play at Missouri State, and Southern earned at least $20,000 to take on Missouri State in 1988.

“I think if you’re playing a lower level (D-1) school, like Washburn playing Missouri State, that’s a big game for them because Missouri State isn’t like Southern Illinois so the players don’t get beat up and embarrassed,” Boyd said.


When it comes to the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Southern, money is being earned for the school by playing larger opponents. The women’s team played Arkansas in Fayetteville last season and was paid $5,000. The men’s team will travel to the University of Missouri in Columbia next month for a $10,000 payout, and will also travel to Carbondale, Ill., to take on Southern Illinois University for $5,000. It will be the team’s second trip to Columbia in four seasons.

“We have played someone (D-1) just about every year they have allowed Division II teams to play,” Missouri Southern men’s basketball Head Coach Robert Corn said of taking on big schools. “We’ve done it for the last four or five years.”

Corn said payouts range anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000 for basketball games, and playing in a larger environment helps the team prepare for the MIAA season.

“I think every place we’ve played at has been a good experience for us,” Corn said. “We’d be happy to play anywhere. I think it’s just a great opportunity for the young men to play in that type of atmosphere.

“You go in these settings where you’re going to get called names,” he added. “There are some different things like that. You’re mental concentration and your mental toughness is definitely challenged.”

So what does a school like Missouri get out of paying a team like Southern to play in an exhibition game? Missouri Sports Information Director Chad Moller said it’s basically a dress rehearsal.

“It’s a chance for a team to play, turn the lights on and have fans come in and everything,” Moller said. “You’re going to try to do everything like you would in a regular game but the good news is if it doesn’t go well it doesn’t count against your record. It’s a practice game basically.

“It’s a chance not just for the team but for the school to practice running an event, too,” Moller added. “You can go through operations related to putting on a game, whether it’s parking or concessions or donor relations. Whatever it is, everyone gets a chance to practice. We always look at the exhibition games as a great opportunity.”

Missouri often plays other MIAA opponents in exhibition basketball games. Moller said the school usually likes to keep the opponent instate.

“I think it’s a general philosophy that it just makes sense to have someone come in from an instate school so you can help them out a little bit, give them a little more exposure,” he said.

Beard said the athletics department doesn’t rely on money earned from playing other opponents, but if a contract is worked out ahead of time the money may be incorporated into spending plans.

“If they (coaches) know that they’ve got a guarantee, and usually those guarantees are arranged more than a year out, they will plan on it and count on it so that’s a little bit of a yes and no answer,” Beard said. “Is it budgeted and do we count on having one of those every year? No, absolutely not, but usually the scheduling for those types of games happens far enough out that once we know we’ve got one coming a coach may plan accordingly and plan to purchase something out of the ordinary. An extra team outfit, maybe a different uniform, a piece of equipment maybe they ordinarily wouldn’t.”