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Mountaineer Field

Money talks.

That succinct phrase has spoken volumes for years. But perhaps it’s never been more the case than in the declining throes of the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of West Virginia’s only two NCAA Division I colleges are prime examples of the “money talks” concept.

Just this week the Big 12 announced that West Virginia University, along with each of the other nine members of the league, will receive about $34.5 million in revenue, mostly from television contracts and media rights fees, for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

So, the Big 12 is distributing about $345 million.

Guess what?

As large as that amount appears, it is actually down from the Big 12’s payout before COVID-19 struck. Prior to the pandemic, WVU and other Big 12 schools were receiving more than $40 million apiece.

All things considered, the $34.5 million is rather remarkable.

Just ask Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

“Looking at it at this time last year or even a couple, three months later than this,” said Bowlsby, “if we could have signed up for $35 million, we would have done it in a heartbeat.”

But now, with the pandemic appearing to wane and some sense of normalcy returning to lives and loves, such as sports, the revenues are expected to increase. And why not? Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium is expected to return to full capacity seating for the 2021 season.

So, the revenue distribution should rise accordingly.

Now let’s compare that to Marshall University’s scenario.

Actually, there isn’t much to compare.

Conference USA, which ranks near the bottom of the 10 FBS leagues, usually distributes about $250,000 in revenue per school. Again, this number is based on television contracts.

It isn’t difficult to do the math.

WVU receives $34.5 million during a pandemic, while Marshall typically realizes about $250,000 in a “normal” year.

And Thundering Herd fans wonder why WVU and Marshall don’t compete in football and basketball?

Again, money talks.

The Mountaineers’ usual athletic budget — COVID-19 notwithstanding — is $93 million. Marshall’s typical athletic budget is about $31.5 million, although it was slashed to $25 million during the 2020-21 fiscal year.

So, basically, Marshall’s budget is one-third of WVU’s budget.

And yes, I’ve heard all the rhetoric about “on any given day” and about “outworking your resources.” That premise works well in movies such as “Hoosiers.”

But in real life? Not so much. And not so often.

That isn’t expected to change. Big 12 revenues had increased 13 consecutive years until the coronavirus pandemic lowered it to $37.7 million in 2019-20 and $34.5 million in 2020-21.

It should return to previous levels in 2021-22.

But Conference USA’s television and media rights package was in only the $250,000 range before the pandemic. That’s about as good as it is going to get.

The cold, hard reality of the situation is WVU and Marshall are at opposite ends of the spectrum financially, which in turn, also places the Mountaineers and Thundering Herd on opposite ends of the pecking order athletically.

Money talks.

And it just makes dollars and sense.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.