“You think I like playing in Dallas better than playing in Tuscaloosa?”

One thing I can’t help but wonder about with regard to Alabama’s potential home-and-home searches with the likes of Notre Dame and Texas is why Nick Saban is willing to cast aside a business model he’s clearly comfortable with.  After all, this is the man who once said,

“When you play at home, you do really well,” Saban said in the run up to the Cotton Bowl with the Spartans. “When you play away, you don’t do very well. When you play a neutral-site game every year, you do well every year from a business standpoint.”

Has the math changed?  Michael Casagrande tries to suggest it has.

A big question is how much money a home game with a Notre Dame or Texas would bring in. Using the most recent NCAA financial filing, Alabama football ticket sales brought in an average of $4.96 million per home game opposed to an average of $812,000 of game-day operations costs.

Of course, not all games are created equally in that equation. Single-game tickets for this season cost as little as $40 for Arkansas State and The Citadel and as much as $140 a game for Auburn. A one-off with Notre Dame or Texas could fetch even more than the even-year Iron Bowl visit.

But that consideration doesn’t come in a vacuum.  To maximize the revenue gain, that would mean dropping a cupcake from the home schedule.  Does that sound like something Nick Saban would embrace?  Color me skeptical.

That’s not to say I doubt Alabama is pursuing these games.  It’s just that I doubt there’s really that much more money to be made from scheduling them over a neutral site opener.  So what’s really going on in Tuscaloosa?

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45 Comments

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45 responses to ““You think I like playing in Dallas better than playing in Tuscaloosa?”

  1. JTPruett

    Maybe they’re trying to actually pump up the strength of schedule? It worked for UGA by beating Notre Dame last year. That game was the reason so many thought so highly of UGA.

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    • Bigshot

      Bama could play Little Sisters of the Poor and they would still think highly of them.

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    • gastr1

      That was my thought– Sabz was troubled by last year’s team almost not making the playoff because the SEC alone just isn’t good enough anymore to prop up the dogcrap non-conference schedule he likes. It makes more sense to schedule someone nationally recognized early in the year so, if you do lose to them, it will be largely overlooked later on if you win out.

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    • Stoopnagle

      They aren’t doing that, though. They’re simply replacing the Florida State in Atlanta with a home-and-home.

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      • Stoopnagle

        (He said before remembering that they’re next two neutral site games are Louisville and Duke)

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        • Macallanlover

          Both of which are comparable to our mid-major contest with GT. Bama can schedule anyone in the country (sans 3-4 teams) and would still be a double digit favorite. They have little risk with this move, even on the road, they are just giving the fans a better bang for their season ticket, something UGA should do. No reason to play more than one game a season against a Citadel/Louisiana-Monroe type opponent and subject yourself to ridicule. Set an example and hope everyone gets shamed into better matchups.

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  2. Chi-town Dawg

    Let’s not forget that all home games are no longer created equal when it comes to ticket prices. More and more schools are using dynamic pricing to charge based on perceived demand and interest. If Bama can charge its fans $150-$200 a ticket for a home game against ND or Texas, then it could be much more profitable than a cupcake at $55 a ticket (these are guesses are ticket prices). Yes, they would have to go on the road, but could back fill those years with a cupcake at home.

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  3. Bigshot

    So Bama has a home game cheaper than UGA?

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  4. HiAltDawg

    Maybe it’s a reversal with Saban copying Kirby. Everyone saw UGA fans taking over Chicago, Nashville and Southern California. (Now I get to be the douche) It was crazy on the two trips I went on: but Chicago and San Diego to Malibu were absolutely ridiculous with UGA fans EVERYWHERE! Every crosswalk in Chicago, every business I walked into in SoCal, Dawgs everywhere. Mind you this is in the Social Media age where Twitter was blowing up with folks “Calling the Dawgs” freaking everywhere (Wrigley Field). Every school would love to mimic the Enthusiasm Wave UGA experienced last year so maybe the “Road Game” experience is a new thing.

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    • ChiliDawg

      I’m not sure Bama fans travel as well as Georgia does.

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    • atlasshrugged55

      Was last year’s travel support an anomaly or the “new” norm? In past years we were criticized for not travelling well & relegated to Memphis or Jax for bowl games.

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      • HiAltDawg

        I wondered the same thing after Notre Dame but (in my very small sample experience) there seems to be legitimate excitement for Road Games because the Home Slate is such garbage.

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      • JCDAWG83

        Georgia fans travel very well for games they have any interest in. We didn’t get too fired up about a bowl game in Shreveport, Memphis or Jax after another disappointing season.

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      • Stoopnagle

        Memphis at the end of a 6-6 season is a lot different than when we drank Tempe dry in ’08 or had a massive sold-out tailgate at CU in ’10. If they give us a road trip with a P5 team, we’re going to travel in droves. We travel. Period.

        I think you’re on to the reason Bama is looking at this: they can cop all the cash on the home game, then sell travel packages for the away game. I don’t see how that gets them to the guaranteed money the neutral site game offers – we make a killing on Jacksonville, for example – so I don’t get it.

        Maybe it is competition since their next two neutral site games at L’ville in Orlando and Duke in ATL. Duke? OK.

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  5. Huntindawg

    Remember that more and more people are moving away from standard cable packaging. The ultimate result from that is likely to be a pay per view model, or a model where you can buy specific channels or sports packages. Either way, big time match-ups are going to generate more money from broadcast revenue than from stadium attendance. Cupcake games are going to end up being financially unattractive – much more so than they are now.

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    • Sanford222view

      The delivery method is what is changing. The streaming services are taking subscribers from traditional cable TV and satellite providers. The programmers are still not relenting to an a la carte model for the customers to choose what channels they get. Programmers still force the providers (Comcast, Sling, YouTube, Direct TV, etc.) to take all or most of their programming. What is interesting is how the streaming services are able to offer the same programming at lower rates. I am not sure how they are pulling that off and wonder how long it will last.

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      • Mad Mike

        I would think the streaming services like Sling are able to offer lower prices since they don’t have to pay for things like infrastructure maintenance, or subsidizing the cost of receiving equipment.

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  6. The other Doug

    Does Saban care about maximizing athletic department profit? I doubt it. He seems to have plenty of meny for analysts.

    Does Saban care about strength of schedule? I doubt it. They’re the one team that doesn’t need a strong schedule.

    So, why is he willing to play these tough OOC games? I think it must be about focusing and preparing his players. That’s the only thing I can see that benefits Saban and the team. It seems risky for very little reward to people like us who have never been in the arena, but he makes it work.

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  7. Bright Idea

    Who is Bama gonna’ travel to that will get the 1-3 point home field advantage against that roster? Their personnel negates anybody’s home field edge so they really only have to worry about the business aspect of scheduling. I’d love to hear that conversation between Saban and their $$$ gurus.

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  8. Dave

    If I had to guess, would be SOS argument. They’ve twice won championships without winning the SEC. Maximizing odds of getting that fourth slot in years where there is not a clear top 4?

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  9. Vidaliaway

    It may be a hedge against a loss in the SEC championship game. West will take a few years to catch up. East is already there. 12-1 still looks like an invite to the playoffs. Add a better non-conference, and there is no conversation about best team or better deserving.

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  10. PTC DAWG

    When Bama plays two Power 5 type teams OOC, let me know.

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  11. BMan

    Maybe Saban/Bama is finding it harder to get a quality OOC opponent for a neutral site game. After having Clemson, USC and the like over the years, aren’t they soon facing the prospect of Duke and Louisville? Saban probably finds no real bounce out of playing an opening game that’s equivalent to a Belk Bowl-quality opponent, and maybe to get the attractive strength of schedule bounce, it’s easier if offering a home-and-home. All that being said, it’s likely I have no clue what I’m talking about.

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  12. Bulldog Joe

    Surprised Notre Dame would go for this, considering the fan reaction after last year’s Georgia game.

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  13. Mayor

    Pardon me but doesn’t all this sound a little “Georgia Way”-like? Bama making decisions on who to play based on money? Maybe they should consider playing LSU in New Orleans at the Superdome every year. I’m sure New Orleans would throw in some dough to get that game there every year. Call it the “World’s Stupidest Indoor Cocktail Party.” I’m sure the Bama fans would all go for it. 🙂

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    • Got Cowdog

      Easy, Player. The Bayou Bengals won’t be down long. I hope they’re gunning for the Dawgs in the SECCG in a couple of years.

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      • David Chadwick

        That coaching staff Orgeron slapped together better start producing. I’ll believe it when I see it. Putting that program in Orgeron’s lap was a huge gamble.

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  14. UGA '96

    Nbc and longhorn network have coke bottle envy

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  15. Uglydawg

    Every reason mentioned here has one thing in common, that Saban must have some sinister or self serving motivation for doing this. It could be that he really wants to see good teams play each other and wants to give college football fans a show worth watching. Yeah, he loves winning. But he loves football too and he likes a challenge. Not saying that his motivations are as pure as the driven snow, but they might be more than $$. He may want to put on ” a really big shew”!

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    • Macallanlover

      Agree, while money is always a factor, it doesn’t drive smart people to make dumb decisions chasing it at all costs.

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  16. DoubleDawg1318

    Saban is politically savvy. He knows media attention influences the post season selection and I think the home and home is a way to beef up the SOS and keep the attention on Bama instead of letting it drift to other match ups like UGA/ND or OSU/OU. Home and home with big names tends to get more attention than the neutral site one offs.

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  17. Tony Barnfart

    As others have alluded, Chip and Seth also wondered whether all the PR we got by taking over South Bend has something to do with this. If they think they can button up the financial numbers (at least enough) to deviate from the neutral site opener, it does make me wonder if they’re pondering whether that neutral site model is played out from a goodwill/PR standpoint (on several fronts)

    JMO, the neutral site opener is an easy way to schedule a payday but i think they are not nearly the rage they were 5-10 years ago.

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