EAST LANSING, Mich. – For the players on Michigan State’s club football team, their passion for the sport can end up costing hundreds of dollars. New members pay the $850 team fee, while returning players are charged $400. The money funds the team’s budget, and pays expenses during the season.
This year, the original budget was determined by multiplying the club fee by the roster limit of 60, for a total of $24,000. However, the team only has 46 players and Matt Oxie, a neuroscience major who is the team’s president, estimated the final expenses to be nearly $30,000.
“That money goes towards everything. Travel, home games, officials, equipment. That’s what makes it so expensive,” said Oxie, a junior.
The money goes towards team needs, such as the game field rental at the Hope Sports Complex, the bright orange cones used for training drills, crowded bus rides and a handful of hotel rooms for certain away games.
The cost for a dark green helmet with a thick white stripe down the middle and a pair of heavy shoulder pads are factored into the cost for a new player, if they do not own the MSU-specific equipment. Players are responsible for the price of their full Nike game uniforms, practice jerseys, cleats, girdles, sleeves, gloves, or anything else they want to wear.
Vinny Costanzo, a senior history education major and returning player, paid $525 for his kit last year. Players are allowed to upgrade equipment, meaning a helmet could cost $200 more and $100 more top-of-the-line shoulder pads.
Equipment and team fees are mandatory to be eligible to play. The team has worked out various deals with players, like incremental payments that can span months, or individuals may purchase used equipment items.
“We do our best to accommodate everyone’s financial needs. We know guys are paying to be a student at Michigan State so we know every dollar counts,” said junior horticulture major Eric Savad, the ex-vice president of the team.
The team, in its second season, has previously encountered straining unexpected costs. The original budget is set at the end of the spring semester, but it is not official until later in the season after new costs, donations and games have occurred. The team has been forced to cancel certain games due to the cost.
“Our budget is fluid throughout the year,” said Oxie. “We have it set to a certain amount at the end of spring semester, but it hardly ever stays that amount.”
According to Savad, some of the unexpected costs include the doubled fee of $3,200 to begin practice at John M. Patriarche Park two weeks earlier. Potential players have ordered equipment in the spring, only to decide they no longer wish to play in the fall and leave the bill with the team. The five-hour road trip to Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio was not planned until six days in advance and cost nearly $800 for three vans and gas.
Last year, the team received some financial help from the Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU), getting $5,000 reimbursement for their trip to play at Miami University in Ohio.
The team mostly relies on fundraising and their own money to cover the costs.
According to Oxie, the team is considered a Registered Student Organization and not a true club sport yet. There is no money or equipment set aside for MSU club football by the university.
Oxie said that the team recently collected an additional $50 from each player after the home attendance numbers were lower than hoped.
It was a last resort.
“We already expect them to pay a lot to come out and play and we do not want to charge them throughout the season to do things they should already be able to do with their club fee,” said Oxie. “We do not want them to pay more.”
Despite the unexpected costs, the team played seven of their planned eight-game schedule and continued to regularly practice. Savad said that everyone on the team was willing to work with the changing costs to keep the season going, even if they were not happy about it.
“If that means players drive their cars instead of taking a bus, they do it,” said Savad. “If that means chip in $5 for a night of practice at the game field, they do it. They might not be happy about it and they might complain, but they get it done.”
The team relies on fundraising as a major source of money, hosting events such as a car wash and a college night at Spare Time Entertainment Center. Their most effective campaign has been the gofundme page started by senior psychology major and linebacker/defensive end Patrick Loewen. The crowdfunding effort has raised $2,405 so far.
“It’s been by far our most successful fundraiser,” said senior elementary education major and wide receiver Danny Mogill. “It’s raised a couple thousand, way more than any of our other fundraisers.”
Loewen said the gofundme was successful because it is an easy way to donate.
“People have expressed interest in donating to the team, but did not know how,” said Loewen. “This is an easy way for people to help out.”
Loewen added that the page hit its initial goal quickly, so he decided to raise it to $5,000 to see how much help they could receive.
“We’re squeezing the money out where we can. That is kind of what we’ve been doing,” said Loewen. “We need as much money as we can get.”
Donations mostly come from family and friends, with the team receiving a few anonymous ones too.
During the season, funds are based on ticket sales, 50/50 raffles, or the gofundme. The team also sells white block “S” stickers at their games for $3 for one or $5 for two.
Going forward, the team needs more outside funding.
“This club cannot be funded on the back of the players, because we are all just college students,” said Oxie. “We’re all broke college students who pool their money together to get a medium pizza on a Friday night with our four other roommates.”
Even with the all costs factored in, players are willing to look past the budget struggles to look at the numbers on a teammates’ jerseys for what may be the last time. They have an opportunity to play full contact football at a Division I college, something a lot of high school players dream of.
“When the club opened up last year, guys jumped on the opportunities to continue their football careers and play as long as they possibly can,” Mogill said. “It’s expensive, but I’d do it every single time.”