Bowl revenue sanctimony

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.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, It's Just Bidness

9 responses to “Bowl revenue sanctimony

  1. TennesseeDawg

    The overall picture is what is important. Who cares if Georgia were to lose $750,000 on a bowl trip when the athletic department brings in $80 million?


    • Macallanlover

      I agree this should be viewed from a bigger picture perspective, if the program is run efficiently and is in the black, bowl expenses become just another line item. It is damned interesting that Oregon could not sell their allotment to the biggest game in their school’s history, especially one played on the West Coast. UCONN is just pathetic, but to have over $4 million in expenses is worthy of an investigation.

      Since schools in most conferences have to divide their bowl revenues, wouldn’t it be fair to add expenses to the pot before it is split?


  2. JG Shellnutt

    The truth is that, for a lot of programs, the profits generated by football allow for the existence of the other sports anyway. For some schools, it is basketball that is the financial workhorse.

    Either way, no one is raising a stink about how many thousands of dollars are being lost by the less-than-premiere (aka non-profit-generating) sports at practically all schools by simple virtue of their existence…and the fact that they could not operate at all anyway without the football and/or basketball programs’ financial support.


  3. I wonder what a Venn diagram would look like of people who believe a playoff would be a financial windfall and people who believe revenue-sport players should be paid some sort of stipend (not name-related… that is a whole ‘nother matter). I bet there would be significant overlap.


  4. Go Dawgs!

    Hancock’s argument is essentially correct, and it’s certainly well-stated. And, in the case of most bowl games, I don’t have a problem with a school losing some money to participate, especially when the overall numbers are still in the black. However, with it being the Fiesta Bowl, I have a problem with a school losing money in order to participate in something that was a money factory for its CEO and all of the people on his illegal payroll. When you look at the report on the Fiesta Bowl’s internal investigation, you see a few places where a little more money could have potentially been kicked towards the participating schools.


    • Puffdawg

      “When you look at the report on the Fiesta Bowl’s internal investigation, you see a few places where a little more money could have potentially been kicked towards the participating schools.”

      That may be true, but it wouldn’t be coming from John Junker’s trips to Phoenix’s finest strip clubs. There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for that…

      “We are in the business where big strong athletes are known to attend these types of establishments,” Junker said, according to investigators. “It was important for us to visit and we certainly conducted business.”


    • DawgPhan

      The schools could have always declined the invitation. No one has holding a gun to their head to accept a contract that stipulated they sell 17k tickets, which their AD’s knew was not even close to being possible. Any schools that took a loss, must have weighed the positives of playing the game against the negative of losing money to play it.


  5. Idiot

    Teams that are invited to high profile bowls have a right to have all the expenses they want paid by the bowl.

    Fans have a right to know who is the college football national champion.

    Local yocals who throw a bowl and invite teams to play in their bowl shouldn’t party ecesssively with the profits.

    Cam Newton wasn’t paid.


  6. Bad M

    Those are phony numbers. A school in a conference gets a cut every year from all the bowl games their member institutions participate in…whether they themselves go or not. Just because in one year, the costs aren’t covered by the “expense allowance” doesn’t mean they are losing money. They get their share of all the bowl money and have been for years.