Since taking the job a year and a half ago University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn's schedule has been so hectic that the walls of his office still remain completely bare. It's the nature of the job as he spends his days looking for ways to continue improving every detail of the school's athletic program.
As he took a break from the beehive of activity of planning the Mocs trip to Knoxville to face Tennessee, Blackburn acknowledged the benefits that will carry on past Saturday's game.
UTC will be paid $450,000 for the game, a check that will go toward helping to fund the athletic department's $15 million annual budget for men's and women's sports.
"These games are so important for FCS schools," Blackburn said. "This one game is a significant portion of our entire budget and will help fund every sport in our athletic department. We try to earmark a lot of that money back into football, whether that's for scholarships, equipment, salaries for coaches, or other expenses, but it goes toward everything.
"If we didn't have these games against FBS teams it would really hurt us. I'm not of the opinion that it would devastate us. We could go out and raise money, but clearly having one game bring in that amount helps us tremendously. We're thankful to UT for this opportunity."
The Mocs have already played one "big-pay" game, earning $350,000 for opening the season at FBS foe Central Michigan in a game that came about after Georgia State backed out of its contract with UTC. The money made from that game will be used almost entirely toward the construction of the planned athletics and training center, which will cost an estimated $12-14 million and could be completed within three-four years.
"I made that decision based on what's best for the program long-term," said Huesman, who was given the choice of scheduling a small-school opponent for a likely easy win or opening at CMU.
Huesman acknowledged it not only made the schedule tougher because of the level of competition in the season opener, but also the fact that the Mocs will have seven road games this season.
"We have to do it to help pay bills and to function here," Huesman said. "Every FCS team in the country does it, and some play two BCS teams. That's tough. I wouldn't want to do that."
Although still in the planning stages, the new facility, which will be 50,000-60,000 square feet, will include a large team meeting room, academic lounge, expanded offices for the football staff, a state-of-the-art training room and locker room that would be a dramatic upgrade from the team's current cramped facility.
"The one thing that will allow Chattanooga athletics to take the next step forward, like a Georgia Southern or Appalachian State or North Dakota State, is if we can get an athletics facility built," Blackburn said. "Given our city and geographical footprint, that's the only thing we lack. The biggest benefit of having that new facility built is recruiting. This would help us sell the program to the type recruits our staff needs to take that next step.
"But it's not just about football. All of our sports would benefit and use it."
This season marks the first time since 2008 (at Oklahoma and Florida State) that the Mocs have played two guaranteed big-pay games. While the money made from the season opener at CMU will be for one purpose, this weekend's pay day will be spread throughout the athletic department.
The Mocs already have next year's FBS payday planned, a late-season trip to Florida State that will again help fund an entire fiscal year of athletics.
"It's neat for our guys to have the opportunity to play in places like Neyland Stadium and Alabama and Florida State," Huesman said. "It also helps in recruiting. It helps kids to see we're playing those type teams every year. We get way more out of it than Tennessee does."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.