A visit to a Wesleyan University football game on one autumn weekend, followed by a trip to a University of Michigan game the next, would yield for sports observers some striking contrasts. It is only a slight overstatement to say that the only factor that these two contests share in common is the shape of the football. A typical game, for example, between any two teams of the "little three"--Wesleyan, Amherst, and Williams--might attract a few thousand spectators, a relatively small percentage of whom would actually pay to see the game. Revenues generated would be minuscule. Concessions and other merchandising would likely be handled by team members selling popcorn, hot dogs, and T-shirts to raise money for their yearly trips.
The atmosphere at the "little three" game, as one manifestation of the disparity among divisions in college athletics, stands in sharp contrast to the atmosphere that one might expect to find at a Big Ten game (that is, among Division IA, commonly referred to as "big-time"). A Michigan-Penn State game could on average attract over 100,000 spectators and generate gate receipts of over $2 million.1 Television revenues, corporate sponsorships, concessions, licensed merchandise, parking, and other promotions add millions more.2 Wolverine Stadium holds almost as many people as live in the city of New Haven, Connecticut. When these fans stream into Ann Arbor, its hotels, restaurants, and related businesses prosper, and crowded streets take on the ambiance of a major resort.