Georgia fans going to Saturday's game against Tennessee Tech won't just be cheering for the Bulldogs.
They'll also be keeping the Tennessee Tech athletics department budget afloat. When athletics director Mark Wilson looks for Division I-A opponents to schedule, proximity is a factor. So is cash.
"We prefer to look for the ones that will offer the most amount of money for that game," Wilson said.
Georgia will pay Tennessee Tech $475,000 for the privilege of playing at Sanford Stadium and, it hopes, losing to the Bulldogs. It is the second payout game for the Golden Eagles this year. Typically, the school likes to have one such game annually, but added Kansas State, which beat Tennessee Tech 49-7 in September.
"[The Kansas State game] was a decision that we made more for economic reasons," Wilson said, that it will "help us through the tight economic times we're in right now."
That's life in Division I-AA. The athletics department budget at the Cookeville, Tenn., school is about $9 million. The check from the Bulldogs accounts for about 5 percent.
Georgia can manage the expense. Before concessions, the Bulldogs receive about $2.7 million on an average home Saturday, executive associate athletics director Frank Crumley said.
The price that Georgia pays can vary for I-AA opponents.
"It's all over the board for us," Crumley said. "You may get one school that really wants to come to Athens," which lowers the price.
Of the $475,000, $300,000 goes to Tennessee Tech's athletics department general budget. The rest goes to the football budget. Last year, coach Watson Brown used the payout money from playing Louisville and Western Michigan to buy headsets for the coaching staff. Some of the other money bought a video editing system that the entire department uses.
They came at a cost of two losses by a combined 92-17 score.
"I can say our coaches don't like it very much," Wilson said of playing I-A opponents.
Playing a team such as Georgia does produce the sort of profits that can't be folded into a wallet. Alumni love games like this, Wilson said. Tennessee Tech will be about 1,200 strong at Sanford Stadium, and the school will host an alumni function before the game.
He also believes they bring "brand recognition" to the school and football team.
Brown can also use a game at Sanford to help in recruiting and to motivate his team. His roster includes 15 players from Georgia.
"We've been talking about this all season," said nose guard Dedrick Miley, from Valdosta High. "We've been focused on the conference and everything, but in the back of our minds, we've been thinking, Hey, we play Georgia Nov. 7."
The benefits do not stop there. From its budget infused with the Georgia payout, Tennessee Tech paid Pikeville College, an NAIA school in Kentucky, $22,500 to be its own sacrificial lamb. The Golden Eagles beat Pikeville 51-10 in September.
Said Wilson, "We want to make sure that if we're going to go play these guarantee games against bowl subdivision (Division I-A) opponents, we want our program to get a game we think is winnable for us."
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