Shockingly, Bill Hancock makes a decent point about something.
… Connecticut, which earned its first-ever BCS berth with last January’s Fiesta Bowl appearance, reported losing more than $1.6 million from the trip, despite a $2.5 million expense allowance from the Big East. And for the second time in three years, Virginia Tech and the ACC took a bath ($1.6 million) from the Hokies’ trip to the Orange Bowl. In both cases, the main culprit was unsold tickets, since the two BCS games require participating schools to purchase 17,500 tickets and absorb the cost of any that go unsold. UConn sold just 2,271 of its allotment, a nearly $3 million loss.
The BCS pays the automatic-qualifying conferences roughly $22 million, but leagues split the money among all of their member schools, and each handles bowl expenses differently. Connecticut’s Fiesta Bowl opponent, Oklahoma, was stuck with 11,933 unsold tickets, but the Big 12 covered most of those losses, allowing the school to break even.
“If a conference takes in $22 million [from the BCS], then if the school loses money … it’s because of conference distribution and because of how many people are in their traveling party,” said Hancock. Noting reports that Oregon lost $285,437 on its trip to the BCS National Championship Game, Hancock said: “Oregon chose to give [1,761] tickets away; no one made them. I don’t know whether it was to boosters or people on their staff. That’s been way mischaracterized in the media. The Pac-10 got $28 million [for two BCS berths].”
I’m having a hard time faulting his logic there. In fact, I’m tempted to up the ante: where is it written that schools should make a profit on bowl appearances? I’m not being sarcastic. Take a look at something Katie Thomas wrote in response to comments about the New York Times’ article on Title IX.
… This raises a difficult dilemma for many athletic programs. There is a need to continue offering generous support to the teams that generate the most revenue for the department, especially in this economic climate. However, the athletic departments are not for-profit entities, and, indeed, only a small minority breaks even financially — most rely on subsidies from the university. Most athletic directors I’ve spoken to say that the mission of their program is not to generate a profit but to offer a high-quality experience to all of the men and women who compete on their teams — regardless of whether those teams turn a profit or not.
If that’s really the case, then why should we care about Connecticut ponying up money to cover the bowl trip? If it’s all about offering the experience, why should football be held to a different standard than any other athletic program which loses money? (Not to mention there’s a big difference between a football team losing money on a bowl trip and women’s volleyball losing money over an entire season.)
The fact is these are two goals which aren’t compatible. Anyone who suggests otherwise is doing little more than talking out of both sides of his or her mouth. And all the attention being paid to the perceived unfairness of the BCS should tell you which side is dominant.