Million-dollar difference between high school football and basketball in Georgia

By David Purdum / For the AJC

It’s no secret that the state of Georgia likes high school football more than basketball. The million-dollar gap in the amount of revenue generated by the two sports’ postseasons, though, is quite stunning.

The gross receipts for last season’s state basketball tournament were $389,003, according to numbers provided by the GHSA. Gross receipts for last season’s football playoffs — $1,352,673. Despite having only half as many games as the basketball tournament, the football playoffs generate more than three times the amount of revenue.

There are 14 state championship basketball games (girls and boys) held over three days. Last season those games generated $185,580 in gross revenue. With the addition of AAAAAA and public/private split of Class A, there were seven state championship football games at the Georgia Dome last year. Those seven games generated $757,593 in gross receipts.

Does that mean football is just that popular in Georgia? Or is basketball just that unpopular?

Without comparing the revenue splits between the two sports to other states, it’s difficult to make an accurate assumption. And, since that’s not happening on state championship week, I thought I’d throw it out for discussion to the people most passionate about it.

Why do you like football better than basketball? Please feel free to share why it’s the other way around for you.


–If interested in more of the financial numbers behind the state championship games, this story is for you.

–Enjoyed this piece from Corey Cusick of the Times-Georgian on what it’s like to know you’re preparing to play your last high school football game.

–Have interview requests in for Carrollton coach Rayvan Teague and Griffin coach Steve DeVoursney. Question suggestions are welcome.

39 comments Add your comment


December 10th, 2013
1:56 pm

This is a STOOOOOPID argument…

Basketball is NOT just that UNPOPULAR, as you say above…

There are fields & stadiums that hold 4,000 to 12,000 in football. Most are 3/4 full at $7-9 a pop…

There will be 40,000 – 50,000 at the Dome this weekend & at $18 pre sale & $25 at the gate (I think, as I have bought thru the school, already)

Just go to a Buford girls game vs Wesleyan… If you are not there an hour before tip-off you will be standing.. NOTE – just using this as a reference, that the game IS POPULAR!!!

Point is – Basketball is very popular.. There might be other sports that divert fans, Wrestling is a diversion for me, but I still go to hardwood games!


December 10th, 2013
2:01 pm

How many of the early basketball playoff games are during the week? I doubt you get much fan travel for those games, probably just parents and a few students.


December 10th, 2013
2:08 pm

How much does it cost to field a football team, and how much deos it cost to field a basketball team. Dont compare apples to oranges.

The One

December 10th, 2013
2:12 pm

Good point JM, Of course football is more popular in GA but the financial gap is between the two sports is two fold. First football in GA is 11 months a year and basketball gets maybe 2 months of good media and new coverage. Example in February it’s the most important time of the year for basketball you have region champions being crowned and the state tournament starting, but all that is covered in GA is national signing day for football. Not complaining because I love both sports it’s just a fact that football will always be #1 by a large margin in the South period.


December 10th, 2013
2:43 pm

Always interested to see how a comment section develops after the first comment is “This is a STOOOOOPID argument…” I guess I was just wanting to get everyone’s take on the money gap between the two sports. I don’t think increased media coverage of hoops would help. Page view numbers drop significantly when writing about hoops compared to football. Overall, agree with @TheOne. –David Purdum

High 5

December 10th, 2013
3:32 pm

Basketball could be huge in Georgia. There are excellent coaches and players all around the state. I’ve lived in the north and trust me Georgia has just as much talent as they do up there. Football will always be king here but Basketball can be huge too, but there needs to be a concerted effort from the fans, the school systems, and the media to make that happen. Also, more money needs to be invested in school gyms (arenas) to make people want to attend games, especially in Dekalb County. SWD, MLK, Stephenson should be ashamed of themselves with those elementary school size gyms. Also, why doesn’t anyone Televise any regular season games like they do football! There are some absolutely terrific local regular season games that no one ever witnesses!


December 10th, 2013
3:55 pm

Football is a 12 month/365 day institution in most of the South. Everything else, including basketball, is something the majority of people pay attention to between the end of one football season, the start of spring practice and the beginning of the next season. I don’t have to like that reality to acknowledge it.

On the whole, many communities still bond around the shared experience of Friday nights. Irregular schedules, poorer weather for travel, mid-week games, the lower popularity of the sport, all of that combines to keep football King in many many places. Exceptions exist — I grew up in a town where the only HS sports success was enjoyed by girl’s basketball so it ruled the roost pretty well — but they’re just that: exceptions.


December 10th, 2013
3:57 pm

I think it is true that football is just a bigger sport in Georgia and much of the South. Add to that the playing of the football state title games at the Georgia Dome, a place most people want to visit, and the relatively large stadiums most Georgia high schools use and it is no wonder that football generates a lot of money. Contrast that to GHSA’s decision to put the state basketball championships in Macon and the preliminary rounds over the years in relatively isolated locations like Carrollton and Fort Valley or in buildings totally unsuitable for basketball like the Trade Center in Dalton and the problem compounds itself. There is nothing wrong with the Macon facility but it is way out of the way for most of the teams that make it to the basketball finals in the larger classifications. Georgia needs to return to a true state tournament like other states where the top eight or 16 teams in a classification come together in one place for a true tournament over a 5 or 4 or 3 day period. There was a time when 16 teams came together at Georgia Tech for the two largest classifications and ion Macon for the three smallest classifications. Play began early in the week and continued until the finals on Saturday. That would generate a lot more interest and a lot more income.


December 10th, 2013
4:04 pm

High school football is more popular in GA than basketball! Whodathunkit?


December 10th, 2013
4:41 pm

In Camden County, the football team wins, the basketball teams just play. At least that’s the way it has gone for the last 5-6 years here. Wining games put people in the seats. I try and go to home basketball games at least the region games. There are not a lot of people in the gym. Tift County is fun to watch. Just my thoughts.


December 10th, 2013
4:46 pm

One more thought, I strongly believe if you get the finals out of the dome. The GHSA would make more money. It would be standing room only at the finals. Go back to the semi-finals at the dome 14 teams,bands and parents, fans. More people more money. But what about the SEC championship game? Move all games back to the schools. More fun, better for high school football.


December 10th, 2013
4:47 pm

Enter your comments here


December 10th, 2013
4:48 pm

That would be 28 teams.


December 10th, 2013
4:53 pm

Tradition. And demographics. If the best basketball was played in Region 1 and Gwinnett County, more people would come. Still, I don’t think the money equates to popularity as much as the writer implies. Plenty of people like basketball…just not as much a social event inside a gym in January as on a brisk fall Friday night under the stars.


December 10th, 2013
4:53 pm

The only thing that matters in GA HS basketball is the region tournaments– the rest of the games are irrelevant in terms of playoff position. And basketball is just not an interesting game to watch for many people – you just need to watch the last quarter. Much more of an individual sport imho.


December 10th, 2013
5:35 pm

First you have to look at venues. A #1 seed will get to host a minimum of 2 home games in football and coin toss for 2 additional home games if the other #1 seeds win. Secondly, the football playoffs takes place over 5 weeks. Unless you are a South GA school playing a Metro area team, you will not have a big commute. Once again, it is just on Friday. Also, the size of the stadiums will allow more fans to attend football games.

Just recently, I believe 2006, they started allowing a basketball team to host a home game and that is only the first round. After the first round, the teams travel to different colleges to play their basketball games. I believe Region 6 5A played at Kennesaw State. That is a distance to travel from a DeKalb County, however if it were football, the higher seed would be hosting a home game. So the big disparity in ticket sales results in GHSA causing basketball fans to travel for playoff games and football has home field advantage! Literally!!! Most parents are not traveling to Dalton on a Wednesday night then turn around and do it again Saturday. If GHSA wants to see revenue increases, allow higher seeds to play the first 4 rounds at their home stadium, then play the championship at a neutral location such as Gwinnett Arena and Macon CentrePlex.


December 10th, 2013
5:55 pm

I fail to draw the narrative between the two, football pays for all the other sports in high school end of story.


December 10th, 2013
6:43 pm

This is not a GA issue. Compare NFL vs NBA — revenue is not even close. In every D-1 college in America, football funds 95% of all other sports. Football is just more popular, period. As a result, you can charge more for games and more people attend, leading to greater concession sales.


December 10th, 2013
8:58 pm

Basketball team: 10-12 players
Football team: 30-100 players
At Basketball game: cheerleaders (10?).
At Football game: cheerleaders (10?) and band (30-100?).
Basketball coaches: 1 or 2 maybe three.
Football coaches: 5-12?

It is no surprise that football draws more people. More parents in the stands, more family members, and a whole lot more former players. Football will always out draw other sports. It is a numbers game as well as popular.

gene ginn

December 10th, 2013
9:14 pm

Play the girls games (jv-Var) at one site and the boys games (jv-var) at the other site.


December 10th, 2013
9:20 pm

I don’t believe it’s a popularity issue. High School football you have 10 games. Basketball nearly 25 excluding playoffs. College Football 12. College Basketball avg 32. NFL 16 vs NBA 82. Football has less games and only one game a week. Not that it is more popular, but basketball’s regular season doesn’t mean as much as football’ sunless it is a rivalry game. However I come from a High School that happens to be good at both. Football and basketball games are packed.


December 10th, 2013
9:22 pm

Also this is taking into account only the playoffs which football has the luxury of playing at someone’s home stadium where basketball playoffs is played somewhere unknown to man!


December 10th, 2013
9:50 pm

@High 5 – I agree with statement about the size of MLK, SWD, Stephenson gym. But it’s not their fault. It’s DeKalb County doing what it does BEST! Not willing to invest in the facilities of high schools in the county. But these schools still produce good/great players. Look at the championships and all-state roser……


December 11th, 2013
7:34 am

Everyone plays football. Basketball has became much more tilted along racial lines for whatever reason which certainly limits the revenue generation. Same with the NBA…Lots more games but no where close to the revenue of the NFL. Basketball tends to be much more urban in following. Football – both rural and urban. Changing of all the rules to favor the offense certainly has not helped either.

Middle Lion Backer

December 11th, 2013
7:59 am

Football is steak and basketball is hamburger but a good cut of hamburger !
Look no further for information and verification on what sport is king in Georgia as information comes to light on the Atlanta pro sports situation. The city of Atlanta picked keeping football over Baseball. Why you ask check the numbers out. Football and the Dome are more of a financially smart choice for the city than was football. Football rules in most areas in this country as Atlanta is no different..
I watch basketball and support my team at the high school level just not as much as I do football. I travel to see football playoffs. I have traveled to see baseball and basketball playoffs but I arrange my schedule to make sure I don’t miss a football playoff game.
Football region slate is very important where as basketball region play isn’t as important. Your region basketball play starts at another region foes gym. Homecourt then depends on seating and not ones record. So what could happen is a weaker team could get hot and could get into the state tourney. Football playoffs seeding makes sure Cinderella doesn’t advance that far.

Middle Lion Backer

December 11th, 2013
8:01 am

oops meant “smart choice than baseball” not football

Region 2

December 11th, 2013
8:04 am

Football has always been the bred winner of sports at every level. Even in college, everyone knows that football funds most of the sports. Most athletic programs struggle to survive without a football program.


December 11th, 2013
10:04 am

sticking the basketball state tournament in that graveyard called Macon Collesium certaintly doesnt help matters. especially when 90% of the final 4 teams are from atlanta/gwinnett


December 11th, 2013
10:21 am

Basic Math: A football team consists of 40-80 players per team. 22 on the field at the same time. Basketball has 12-18 players per team. 10 on the court at the same time. Kids are supported by Parents, aunts, uncles and some friends. Most parents come to the games in football even if their kid does not get as much playing time as a starter.


December 11th, 2013
10:43 am

i agree that its partly simple math, but media exposure and ghsa priorities does play a big part. good basketball reporting really doesnt start until the region tournaments and ends as soon as the state tournament is over. the day after football season is over, media outlets (mainly ajc) are already predicting next years top 10 and spend the entire off-season doing full page articles on practically every team that “might” be in contention. they spend tons of man-hours on recruiting and coaching changes, etc. basketball has no build up in the media for their off-season. Also, the GHSA doesnt help matters. they split the Class A playoffs because of football without even thinking or caring how it would effect other sports that didnt need a split. they put a bye-week in after the football regular season before the playoffs start which screws basketball teams who play in thanksgiving tournaments and have games in early december. then like i said before the football playoffs is played in an NFL stadium in the largest city in the southeast. the basketball playoffs are played in bum-$#%& macon out in the middle of nowhere in a collesium that is falling apart and is down in a hole. As a great coach once said “you are what you emphasize”. And GHSA and the media emphasize football. period.


December 11th, 2013
10:47 am

@David Purdum: oh and tell Kim Kardashian that media exposure doenst make a difference in popularity. i dont buy that for one second.


December 11th, 2013
10:50 am

It is more mental than anyone here has suggested. Not just the feeling we have for football but the thought that we like violence. We like the thrill of the 99 yard pass. Excitement. The physical contact and the expectation of the big hit. The adrenaline that flows with through us is unmatched. This is by nature. A collective of individuals with exceptional talent bonding as a single unit. They need each other and we, the fans know it. That is what draws us to the sport. I don’t think football is more popular but football just has a bigger footprint.


December 11th, 2013
11:43 am

Simple math, Football stadiums hold more fans compared to basketball games which are played in a high school gym and played mostly through the week. Many fans don’t attend games during the week because of school and work schedule…


December 11th, 2013
2:00 pm

I always wondered why football stadiums held 10 times more people than basketball gyms in most schools. Well go figure. I would have never thunk it. :-)

Bobby Dodd

December 11th, 2013
2:36 pm

Just saw a post to hold the boys games at one site and girls at the other.. That’s the one thing GA has over FL in basketball holding girls and boys games together. Plus and I’m a former boys high school coach, the fundamentals in girls basketball in the North Atlanta area are much better than for boys. Not even close. I see girls making a left handed bounce pass to their left and watch the boys on the same pass, across their body with the right hand. That’s unbelievable and off point I know, just a reality check for the boys.


December 11th, 2013
3:48 pm

@bobbydodd: girls also set game records for travels, fouls, jumpballs, and timeouts called. not to mention everyone really loves watching a nice fundamentally sound lay-up instead of a dunk.


December 12th, 2013
8:39 am

Several reasons for that in my mind, and I say this as a former player, head coach, and official. 1) Play is all street ball…too fast pace, no defense, and poor fundamentals. You can score a lot AND still have fundamentals…look at Duke this year. 2) The reason, I believe, #1 is the case is because of poor coaching. Coaches do not teach the game and strategy. Look at high school games now. They all play at the same pace. Remember the Eagles Landing – Albany game last year? Albany had no chance in the game, so they greatly slowed down the tempo. What happened? Most people complained. I applaud that coach. 3) High school officiating is awful…flat out awful. Some of these games are like watching a football game. Fouls need to be called more. Players that do go onto college struggle because they aren’t used to fouls being called. And yes, while I did coach, I do have officiating experience. Associations like those in Augusta, Macon, Columbus, and Albany should be ashamed…and banned from officiating.

So what does this all have to do with the popularity? The main thing is it’s SOOO hard to watch. Players are not fundamentally sound. The most talented team almost always wins because there is no strategy. I know there are SOME that do have strategy, but I’m not just talking about plays. I’m talking about style…tempo. Run and gun and pressing works for some, but some need to hold the ball. I compare it to running the football. Some teams can have a hurry up offense and throw it 50 times. Some need to control the clock.

Bottom line…we need better coaches, officials, and players to get crowds and interest up

High School Coach

December 12th, 2013
9:54 am

To Popcorn – I am a hs volleyball coach in a AAAAAA school and football does not pay for a dime of our program. Our parents raise funds and pay for every trip, item purchased. etc. Our boosters pay for officials, tournaments, travel. You name it. Boosters cover it. We receive ZERO $ from football revenue.


December 13th, 2013
6:09 pm

Football games are on Friday night at 7:30 – a really fun thing to do with our friends after a busy work week – I go even if my kid isn’t playing and I don’t have to leave work at 4:30 to get to most of the games. Most basketball games are mid-week with the girls games starting as early as 5:30 PM. The early start times and mid-week games are reserved for sporting events where my kids is actually playing! Plus, the atmosphere at basketball games just isn’t as fun. When I was in high school in the Midwest, all the students went to the Friday night basketball games, there was a pep band, cheerleaders, pom-pon girls, etc. Now, even most of the basketball cheerleaders I see at the games look bored! Finally,

With respect to booster club funding…it is too bad that public school football boosters don’t share their wealth with other athletic programs within their school. A strong all-around sports program is good for the students, school, and the community. There is no way any other sport can generate the kind of revenue that football can. I think it is embarrassing for a school to have a world class football stadium with a jumbotron while the parents of the volleyball players or swim team have to fund the assistant coach salary or the baseball parents have to pay to get their field maintained. The Marist Booster Club supports all athletics and the concession revenue that is generated at football games is used to support the entire athletic program. From what I understand, that football revenues heavily subsidize the non-revenue sports in college athletic programs.