You can’t put a price tag on exposure. Or can you?

I realize this is probably going to come off as a dumb question, but is it important for a bowl game to make money for a school?

LSU and Alabama are spending a small fortune to bring their bands to the BCS title game.

LSU senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent said the school needs 529 tickets for its band, cheerleaders and support staff. At $350 each — the highest face-value cost for BCS tickets because of their location — that’s $185,150 the school must pay.

The allotment for Alabama’s band is slightly more. Deborah Lane, assistant vice president for university relations, said the Alabama band needs 539 seats for a total cost of $188,650.

Overall, Vincent said, the total bill for the LSU band’s appearance at the BCS game will run to $445,150, including transportation, three night’s lodging, meals, police escorts and other miscellaneous costs.

Alabama did not provide the total amount for what it will cost to get its band to and from the game, though it’s easy to figure that its costs will be similar. That means it would be about $1 million combined for both bands to appear at the game.

That cost comes out of each school’s allotment from the SEC.

Alleva said LSU has budgeted a little over $2 million to cover all of its expenses associated with the championship game. The bulk of the $18 million payout LSU gets for being in the BCS game goes into a pot of bowl revenue from all Southeastern Conference teams to eventually be distributed among its members.

“If we spend more, it’s our fault,” Alleva said. “If we spend less, we make money.

“But in a lot of bowl games, it’s a losing deal.”

As in Clemson’s case, where it’s expected to lose almost $200,000 on its Orange Bowl trip.

This year, Clemson will receive a $1.75 million bowl allowance from the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the program will incur more than $1.91 million in expenses including lodging ($576,696), meals ($148,904), travel costs ($192,250) mileage allowance for players ($114,280) and what can be a major burden — buying unsold tickets ($390,070).

“There is a perception problem; it’s not a windfall,” said Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said of the team’s Meineke Bowl trip last year. “You just want to be able to break even. Sometimes you don’t even break even. But there are significant benefits. You get some extra practice time. And anytime you can get on national television, it continues exposure for your program, which is very significant value.”

I know the unsold tickets are a problem.  And it’s ridiculous for a school relying to some extent on taxpayer funds to support its athletics to put itself in a position where it’s going to lose millions attending a bowl game.  But is there a happy medium for games that are supposed to be about the experience for the players as much as anything else, or should we be outraged by any loss a school takes?

And what are we supposed to think about the ADs at Texas A&M and Arkansas wanting to continue the series at Jerry World, despite net revenues to each falling far below the anticipated amount?

Originally, both schools expected to make approximately $5 million from the game. However, according to the documents obtained by The Eagle, A&M has failed to reach that number.

The school brought in $4.2 million as a result of the 2009 game, a 47-19 Razorbacks’ victory.

A&M’s take dwindled to $2.9 million in 2010 — a 24-17 Razorbacks’ victory that was the lowest attended in the three-game series.

I don’t know how much each school generates with a home game, so maybe the neutral site isn’t a net revenue loser, but I suspect that each sold their constituents on that eye-widening $5 million figure.  Somebody’s giving up a lot of money to maintain a presence – not on TV, but in the Metroplex area.  Who knew Dallas-Ft. Worth was such a big deal?

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UPDATE:  Don’t forget about this additional bowl-related expense (h/t The Wiz of Odds).

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16 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

16 responses to “You can’t put a price tag on exposure. Or can you?

  1. Bob

    Of course teams lose out on their individual bowl game. No surprise here at all. If they could keep all those revenues, they would make a mint. But in the end, LSU and Alabama will not spend one red cent and get the benefits of Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Vandy, Miss State, Auburn and Arkansas going to their respective bowl games.

  2. Macallanlover

    Schools should be prohibited from taking bowl trips that are financial losers. This would either reduce the number of bowls, or make the bowls step up their payouts to continue to exist. ADs could be required to limit all costs to the team and staff necessary to play the game and support the team. Providing “paid vacations” for faculty to bowl games is just absurd. Any tickets and travel expenses for administrators and bands should only be allowed if expenses are within the budget of that bowl.

    Ultimately the excesses are paid by contributors as they continually hold their tin cups out more and more support. Time for universities to begin acting like businesses to reduce the burden they cost both taxpayers and alums. I love LSU’s band, more specifically their music at games, but they can attend a game in New Orleans without needing 3 nights in a hotel one hour’s drive away from Red Stick.

  3. SouthGa Dawg

    Dr. Pepper should pay for the bands’ costs since they are the halftime sponsor. All the “prize money” should go to the athletic dept. The football coach I played for in HS told the band director one time, “If there wasn’t a ME, there would be no YOU…(right before he kicked the band off the field one August afternoon).

  4. Dawgaholic

    They lose money because they agree to give money to the conference – not because the bowls don’t pay enough. All of these articles are misleading. The schools make a concerted decision to smooth revenue streams so that they get close to the same amount regardless of whether they play in a BCS game or the weed eater bowl in a given year.

  5. MT

    I agree, these articles are misleading.

    These ‘losses’ in the articles are only paper losses, nothing more. If Clemson had the same sized conference-allotted bowl budget as LSU/Bama, the only thing we’d hear about would be the unsold tickets.

    The problem with the budgeting process is that these ‘losses’ disappear once the overall annual bowl dollars get distributed among the conference schools.

    Thankfully, the allocation process doesn’t allow LSU or Bama to push all their extra costs of an outsized band or support staff onto the conference; the school bears its own expense, netting whatever remains from the conference bowl distribution. If Bama or LSU were able to push its bowl expenses into the same pot of $ as the TV revenue and onto the rest of the conference, then we’d have a much bigger problem

    • Cojones

      Like you guys, I read and reviewed sections seeking justification for the conclusions they want us to draw. It wasn’t there. Both of you are correct in my mind.

    • biggusrickus

      Assuming I didn’t miss anything and that the money is distributed evenly among all 12 teams, each team will receive about $4.7 million this year, more than enough to cover even the most expensive trip with millions to spare.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        Not to mention the millions they get from bowl revenue from all the other SEC teams that are playing in the post-season.

      • Macallanlover

        I think the pot is divided 14 ways currently, 1/14 to the SEC office, 1/14 to the non-participating teams, and 1/7 to the team playing in the bowl game to help cover the expenses. May have changed, but that is what I remember from a few years ago.

        • Biggus Rickus

          In that case, the two title game participants receive about $2.6 million just from that payout. Point being, nobody is actually losing money once the money is distributed. At least not in the SEC or other major conferences.

          • Macallanlover

            I agree, all SEC teams get a net win from bowl revenues regardless of how the money is divided. It still would be better to maximize profits and eliminate the bowls that add no revenues and cost schools money.

  6. Scott

    The school bands work hard and deserve a bowl game trip. Don’t blame these students. It is the Bowls themselves that are the biggest fleecers.
    Bowls paid out $270 million to schools last year, but Bowl execs were paid $300 million in salary.

    Insight Bowl CEO John Junker was being paid $600,000 per year until his recent firing. According to lawyers hired by the bowls’ board to investigate malfeasance, in addition to his salary, Junker blew $33,000 on his own birthday party in Pebble Beach. He spent $19,000 on country club memberships in three different states. When he wasn’t running up $1,200 bills at strip joints, he was bidding $90,000 in a charity auction to play golf with Jack Nicklaus.

    Most bowl executives have equally inflated views of their own value. Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms pays himself $506,000 a year, and kicks nearly $1 million more in salaries to four lesser execs. Outback Bowl President Jim McVay takes in $808,000 annually.

    • MinnesotaDawg

      Yes.

      I don’t know if all of these numbers are correct, but the theme is consistent with other articles I’ve read. These bowls are a money grab for bowl officials, coordinators, and administrators–and a lot of bowl “expenses” go towards priming the pump to ensure that these money grabs and such extraordinary salaries continue. Kickbacks to local politicians, conference officials, ADs, coaches, and influential journalists, etc. take the form of lavish entertainment and travel. Not coincidentally, we hear from these same wined-and-dined sources how important the tradition of these bowls is for maintaining the integrity of college football….blah, blah, blah. What a joke. The biggest scam of all is that these bowls operate as not-for-profits/charities and are generally tax-exempt.

  7. JasonC

    But isn’t Alabama’s band “The Million Dollar Band?”