CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Coastal Carolina University is charting a new path with its football team.
Saturday marks the beginning of a new era, one that has CCU in college football's highest class with the likes of defending national champion Clemson University and the University of South Carolina.
"When we added football, we didn't know the day or time we would go this direction," said athletic director Matt Hogue.
But, he said everyone involved in the process knew "that this is a day that could get here."
The program's first pass was thrown, first touchdown scored, first game won, just 14 years ago. It was a 2003 season that saw head coach David Bennett lead his team to a 6-5 finish.
A WMBF News investigation found the cost of running a college football program has evolved in that nearly decade and a half, and so have the rewards for the school.
Expenses and Revenues
The investigative team broke down revenues and expenses as reported to the NCAA in June for every year of the football program's existence, including 2002-2003 when the school's first team was being assembled. A report for the 2016-2017 season is not posted publicly.
In June 2002, the CCU athletic department reported $3,108,594 in revenue. By the end of the first football season, the department's overall revenue grew to $5,440,658.
After the 2015 football season, football revenue alone was $6,888,057, part of a $26,584,253 overall department revenue. It's an 855 percent increase in revenue in 14 years. The most recent football revenue reported is more than the entire athletic department made in 2004.
Costs have seen the same jump, from $4,734,140 to $27,336,685 for the athletic department, a 577 percent increase.
Hogue said athletic scholarships are typically the largest line item in the budget. He explained the value of the scholarship can change year to year, based on inflation and educational costs.
According to Hogue, the move to FBS football increases the overall number of scholarships available to the team, from 63 to 85.
"That's also something we saw in the first three or four years of our program," Hogue said. "We couldn't just go out and hand 63 scholarships on day one in 2003. We had to phase those in or else you'd be graduating an entire team."
CCU is prepared to host football opponents as a Football Bowl Subdivision team that may not have previously made the trip to Conway. Kansas is scheduled to be the first "Power 5" school to play at CCU in 2020.
"Those types of games, we believe, will attract and draw larger fan bases and a larger season ticket base and everything that goes with it," Hogue said.
The school reports ticket sales revenue to the NCAA, breaking down the profits by sport. The 2004 football team made up 92 percent of the athletic department's ticket sales. The 2014 team made up just 56 percent of ticket sales.
The data reflects increased baseball and basketball sales.
Football ticket revenue peaked in the 2007 season at $355,488, only to dip to $245,773 for the 2010 season before hitting a new high in 2015 of $381,129.
"I'm pleased with the direction we're going," Hogue said. "We still have ground to gain, I don't think there's any question about that."
Paying the Coaches
While football tickets are making up a smaller piece of the overall pie, so are coaches' salaries.
In 2008-2009, the football coaching staff was paid $1,126,101, 34 percent of the athletic department coaching budget. Football coaches made $1,395,817 in 2015-2016, just 28 percent of the overall coaching budget.
Hogue points out the addition of new sports over the last 15 years leads to the addition of coaches on the payroll and a larger overall expense.
The Rising Cost of Recruiting
One area the football team is getting a larger share is recruiting. Reports show David Bennett was given $22,236 to recruit in 2002-2003.
In Bennett's final year, the 2011 season, the football recruiting budget had climbed to $131,693.
In head coach Joe Moglia's first season, he had $175,472 for recruiting. That's more than the first five seasons of Coastal Carolina football combined.
"The key is when you broaden your net and you broaden your landscape to where you recruit and where you attract players, obviously in some cases you're going to have to cover more area," Hogue said. "When you cover more area, it's going to cost you more in terms of travel. It may mean you take a plane flight if there's a player you really want to see."
Hogue pointed out the pool of players who get scholarship offers grows as the number of scholarships available grows. That leads to the need to recruit more athletes.
Football used 19 percent of the recruiting budget in Bennett's first season and 36 percent of the overall recruiting budget in Moglia's first season.
The team spent more on recruiting in the first four seasons under Moglia than it did in 10 seasons under Bennett.
"If you're going to compete and win a player, especially at the FBS level, there's an increase in costs that are incurred," Hogue said.