fat man in suit takes the money.
Back in the day when the Sporting News was running its own blog and I was writing for it there was a flurry of articles about teams losing absurd amounts of money by participating in bowl games. I compiled them and pointed a finger at the culprit:
The bowls are robbing Peter to pay Peter in the form of ticket guarantees:
To make the bowl berth official, all [Western Michigan] had to do was buy 11,000 tickets to the game against Rice. The Broncos did so, paying $450,000 to the bowl for the tickets.
Go ahead and guess how many tickets Western Michigan sold to last year's Texas Bowl. Too high, too high, too high: 548. Western ended up eating over 400k in ticket expenses and the Texas Bowl got away with a functional payout of less than half of the NCAA's minimum.
As of 2009, MAC bowl games were actually costing the league more money than they brought in. A $2.1 million don't-sue-us payment from the BCS was the only thing keeping them slightly in the black.The problems weren't just on the low end. A couple years ago Virginia Tech, which was going to the Orange Bowl, also ate a spectacular number of overpriced, terrible tickets.
It's March again and FOIA requests have been out for 90 days so it's time for another flurry of articles on the topic. The headliner: Auburn and Oregon lost money on the biggest game of the year. Exclamations. It won't be much of a surprise to find out that UConn took a bath, losing $1.8 million on their Fiesta Bowl trip. They would have turned a significant profit if not for ticket guarantees:
By far the largest expense the university incurred came from absorbed ticket sales. The university sold only 2,771 out of an allotment of 17,500 tickets, resulting in the university absorbing 14,729 tickets worth $2,924,385.
The official figure of 2,771 tickets sold is substantially lower than the previously reported amount of 4,600 tickets sold.
The Fiesta Bowl sold those 17500 tickets at a higher price than the public could get them, and that's not all they were on the hook for:
UConn also has a hotel obligation — a total of 550 rooms at three different hotels ranging in price from $125-225 a night, not including tax, with blocks reserved for either three or seven nights. Additional expenses include a chartered flight and meals for the team, staff and 300-member band, as well as a $100,000 bonus to coach Randy Edsall, and smaller bonuses for assistants, per their contracts, for getting the team to a BCS bowl.
In my previous article on the topic I cited some other schools that had taken losses after hauling around a shogun-worthy entourage, but apparently that's not even WVU's (for example) fault. Once you've got 550 rooms you have to pay for, you might as well bring the band along.
Between the ticket guarantee and the hotel obligation, UConn was doomed to lose a ton of money as soon as they accepted the Fiesta Bowl bid. The Big East as a whole did not, however—that travel allocation from the Big East is only a tiny sliver of the $17.7 million the conference got from the worst playoff on earth. Most of the articles on this topic overlook that. While it's weird that for a lot of schools getting a BCS bid is an invitation to set money on fire, those schools are the sort that get a BCS bid once in a blue moon. The rest of the time they're getting money for nothing and chicks for free. Their net from the system is positive.
So that's annoying but I guess tolerable. Not so much on the lower end where getting your terrible bowl bid is a net loss for you and the conference. While the most recent article flurry focuses on the fake losses at the top of the ladder, it's the bottom where the problem is. There's a point on the bowl ladder at which the game turns from a contributor to college football to a parasite on it. I'm not sure where it is but it's well above the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg.
The NCAA needs to limit the obligations a bowl can foist on the teams that will host them. This will cause a half-dozen minor bowls to shutter their doors, but everything that goes by the wayside was sucking money out of college football and giving it to the East Nowhere chamber of commerce. They won't be missed even by the schools that used to go to them.