State football championships: Do more games mean more money?


A look at the revenue shares by classification from gross receipts from the high school football finals at the Georgia Dome.

Class 2012 / 2011

Class AAAAAA $39,194.38 / N/A

Class AAAAA $59,954.50 / $50,954.50

Class AAAA $32.997.89 / $43,356.00

Class AAA $31,224.04 / $37,039.50

Class AA $29,047.070 / $31,713.00

Class A Public $12,639.04 / $23.702.50*

Class A Private $13,236.93 / N/A

*Class A was split into private and public schools after the 2011-12 academic year.


Gross receipts from the state championship games played at the Georgia Dome.

2012 — $757.593

2011 — $678,157

2010 — $746,500

2009 — $635,775

2008 — $624,080

The 2012 state high school football championship games generated $757,593 in gross receipts, the most in the five years since the title games were moved from school sites to the Georgia Dome. But not everyone made more money off Georgia high school sports’ most lucrative event.

With the addition of a sixth classification and the public-private split in Class A, there were seven state championship games played in 2012, two more than the previous year. Fourteen teams split the proceeds with the Georgia High School Association in 2012, compared to 10 teams in 2011.

The schools from the largest classifications that reached the championship games made approximately 20 percent less last season than they did in 2011, according to information obtained through an open-records request by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Norcross and Lovejoy, last season’s Class AAAAAA finalists, took home checks for just over $39,000. The year before, Grayson and Walton earned $51,000 each for reaching the AAAAA state title game, Georgia’s largest classification at the time.

“Bottom line: If the teams that are playing want more money, they need to get more people in the stands,” said Norcross High Athletic Director Kirk Barton, whose school is back in the Class AAAAAA championship game for a second consecutive season and will play Region-7 rival North Gwinnett on Saturday in the Georgia Dome.

Georgia High School Association Executive Director Ralph Swearngin agrees, emphasizing that gate revenue is dependent on matchups more than any other variable.

“We just don’t generate a ton of walk-up ticket sales,” said Swearngin, who is overseeing his final state football championship before retiring after more than 20 years with the GHSA, the last 13 as executive director. “We’ve learned over the years that bigger classifications don’t necessarily bring more fans than the smaller classifications.

“For instance, the classifications that have had the Bufords, the Calhouns and Carrolltons, they will tend to bring an awful lot of people, more than maybe some of the larger schools do. Using these percentages that we’ve developed over time, we think it’s about as equitable as we can get, compared to the amount of money that they bring in.”

The revenue share percentages according to classification size: AAAAAA 20 percent, AAAAA 18 percent, AAAA 17 percent, AAA 16 percent, AA 15 percent, A Public 7 percent and A Private 7 percent.

In the first year of a divided Class A, the four finalists — Prince Avenue Christian and Eagles Landing Christian (private) and Dooly County and Emanuel County Institute (public) — split approximately $51,700, an increase of seven percent from the previous season when the two Class A finalists shared $46,400. But there was still concern from the smaller public schools, said Swearngin.

“We want to make sure that a school never takes home less money than they bring home in presale tickets,” Swearngin explained. “It was very close for one or two of our Class A schools that brought a lot of people and, yet, their seven percent split didn’t give them very much of the pie. It’s one of the things that we’re going to continue to analyze. It would be extremely unfair if a school sold more presale tickets than they’re going to take money home for.”

The state football playoffs generate approximately $1 million more than the basketball playoffs. Overall, gross receipts for last season’s state basketball tournament were $389,003. Gross receipts for the last season’s football playoffs were $1,351,673.

The state basketball championships are played over three days and feature 14 games. The gross revenue from last season’s 14 basketball title games was $185,580, according to numbers provided by the GHSA.

The GHSA also benefited from the added state championship games in football. Its 12 percent share netted the association $90,911 in 2012, up approximately 11.8 percent from 2011. Swearngin says the GHSA’s 12 percent share is one of the lowest of any states in the nation, with many state high school associations taking more than 25 percent.

It costs $50,000 for the GHSA to use the Georgia Dome for the two days of the state championship games.

The GHSA football championships are one of 15 Georgia Dome Legacy Events expected to be relocated to the new Atlanta Falcons stadium upon completion, according to the memorandum of understanding between the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Association. The new stadium is slated to be open in time for the 2017 NFL season.