ACA.carencroteurlings7.101219

Carencro coach Tony Courville wonders how long his football program could function properly if fans aren't allowed to attend games.

Playing NFL games without fans would cost the league billions, but it could survive the huge blow.

Playing college games without fans would work for most Power Five programs, but perhaps not in all mid-major conferences.

But is it really even possible to hold a high school football season without fans?

“We can’t make it,” Loreauville football coach Terry Martin said. “I don’t see how anybody can make it.”

Naturally, the finances for every school and each level are different.

“Unless our school district is going to help us travel and feed the kids, I don’t see how,” Comeaux coach Doug Dotson said. “I don’t think a lot of people really understand how much money it takes to run a high school football program.

“On a yearly basis, it could take 50 to a $100,000 to run your program. If you need uniforms or something like that, it might be up to $100,000 on the high end. If not, maybe 40 to $50,000 on the low end. Either way, that’s a lot of money.”

It’s an issue for both perennial playoff powerhouse programs as well as those who struggle to make the postseason.

“We’re a school where they love football,” Breaux Bridge coach Chad Pourciau said. “The support is there, so we don’t struggle financially most years. But I don’t know how we would survive without fans. I just don’t know how we’d be able to do it. That’s just us and I know other schools would be in a worse situation than that.

“Home or away, you’re going to take a loss every week. It’s scary stuff.”

Unlike most football coaches, Pourciau actually has experience of playing without fans.

At the very beginning of the coronavirus shutdown, Breaux Bridge’s boys basketball team played in the state championship before an empty arena.

“One, you want to play with fans,” Pourciau said. “It just adds to the environment of high school football. But I played a basketball state championship without any fans and it wasn’t any less meaningful. It still mattered.

“But I don’t know financially how we could make that work. I don’t know if it’s financially possible for all public schools to make that work.”

Carencro football coach Tony Courville said it’s hard enough to remain financially viable even if you enjoy playoff success.

“We definitely depend on those gates,” Courville said. “It would be a major blow. I know it would be a major blow to our program. We played three playoff games this past fall and I lost money on all three of them. There’s the expenses of games nowadays. For one game, I paid $1,200 for officials and then there’s security.

“When we went on the road, we still ended up losing $1,000 because of the buses.”

Making matters worse this year is Courville said two scheduled fundraisers had to be canceled because of the coronavirus shutdown.

“Those really help me get through the summer and the first part of the season canceled,” Courville explained. “Our first home game would be in Week 3, but I don’t know if I could make it to Week 3.”

And as Martin explained, it’s not a good time for any program to expect help from even its normal boosters in this current financial climate.

Losing football gate money is more far-reaching than on the surface as well.

“Football alone might pay for 10 sports on campus, so those non-profit sports that you offer are depending on football having fans,” Pourciau said.

Also, other sports and service groups at some schools lean on Friday night football attendance as fundraisers.

Making money at football gates is also a source of paying outstanding bills.

“Some things have to be ordered so far in advance, a lot of schools don’t have the money to pay for it now, so they write it off until you can pay for it,” Martin said. “Once you have a gate or two, then you can pay them. I’m sure there are some school system that don’t have that issue, but pretty much everybody I know, you don’t pay all of your bills until football season is over … once you’ve had a chance to make your money at the gate.

“If we don’t have that, I don’t see how anybody can survive.”

There's also another level to consider.

Even before the coronavirus, programs with little attendance also struggle financially.

If a significant number of fans elect to stay away for social distancing reasons, programs could still struggling financially, even if fans are allowed.

Here's hoping your favorite program didn't unknowingly schedule any long non-district games this fall.

"I'm hoping we can have fans," Martin said. "I think everybody's hoping."


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.