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HBO’s Real Sports to investigate guarantee games in college basketball and football

The physical dangers of “blood games.”

In basketball, the result is typically a humiliation. In football, it’s a humiliation and sometimes a lot more.

HBO’s Real Sports is investigating the truth behind what’s become known as guarantee games — those early season contests between low-majors and high-majors that result in a blowout win for the big guys and a nice paycheck for the small schools.

The teams on the losing end are often struggling financially. They rely on these games to fund their athletic departments, but it comes at a cost. In football, it could even mean endangering student athletes in games against players bigger, stronger, faster, and more talented. Real Sports will look at the safety concerns from the perspective of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), who are often on the losing end of these guarantees.

From a press release:

A mainstay in the college sports economy, they have quietly become a part of college football and basketball culture: the so-called “guarantee games” that pit some of the weakest teams in NCAA Division 1 against some of the strongest ones for money. The payers are elite programs with budgets as high as $100 million, who sell out home stadiums and arenas for a lucrative blowout victory. The payees are often historically black colleges and universities, known as HBCUs, struggling to keep their doors open, and easily outclassed on the field and court, but sent off with a needed paycheck. What happens when such mismatched competitors collide?

The episode will air Tuesday night, Sept. 26. Watch the full trailer here:

While the trailer is centered around football, it’s part of a conversation that is taking place in the basketball world as well. When Georgetown put out a laughable non-conference schedule earlier this month, it spurred a host of questions. To name a few: Do these games hurt college basketball’s popularity, given how it struggles to capture attention in November and December? Do they benefit the high-majors at all, or is it just a way to sell tickets to a few extra home games? How should this affect the high major’s NCAA Tournament chances?

Now it’s time to see it from the other perspective.