David Wonderlich surveys the field and concludes that we may be on the verge of seeing the guarantees paid for cupcake games stalling, or even coming down. They’ve got a pretty tall perch to fall from, that’s for sure.
The site broke the news last week that Alabama lined up Fresno for a game in 2017. Bama will pay out $1.4 million for the game, which is about the going rate for MWC teams these days. Alabama payed $1.5 million to Colorado State in 2013, while Auburn’s 2014 and 2015 games against San Jose State cost $1.5 million and $1.6 million, respectively. Other leagues can still cost a lot too. Southern Miss got $1.4 million from Alabama last year, while Florida paid $1 million to ULL and $1.25 million to Bowling Green in 2012. These games are getting expensive.
As he points out, it’s just as easy for a P5 school to beat a FCS opponent as it is a mid-major, and a heckuva lot cheaper. The problem with that approach these days, as Baylor can attest, is that a school runs the risk of a scheduling downgrade by the selection committee come playoff time. So that’s helping to drive up the cost of mid-majors’ guarantee fees in the current market.
But as he goes on to note, there are trends going the other way now, as conferences, again with the national playoffs in mind, are beginning to dictate that their member schools play at least one OOC game against a P5 team. Add to that conferences that are going to nine-game conference schedules and you begin to see how the market is slowly moving from a seller’s one to a buyer’s one.
David writes, “With a noticeable drop in demand, simple economics would predict a fall in prices.” We all know that college football and simple economics don’t always fit together, but I think there’s something to this. Especially if you believe, as I do, that two more things will come: (1) playoff expansion and (2) conference expansion. The one benefit, if you want to call it that, to diluting the importance of the regular season with an enlarged postseason is that there’s less risk involved in beefing up the schedule. And when the P5s add their sixteenth members (or the Big 12 matches up with its name), conference schedules will have to grow to accommodate that.
Long term, the math may not be too daunting in terms of how much schools are willing to shell out for a game. There’s so much money now, they can afford it. But it’s the total number of cupcake games they buy that will likely really drop.