By Scott Rhymer
Simply as a reminder, radio broadcast information for the Discover Orange Bowl, click here: http://tigerpregameshow.blogspot.com/2011/12/broadcast-information-for-discover.html
Over the next few days, you are most certainly going to hear proponents of a playoff system tell you how broken the bowls system is because of the fact that some teams will “lose” money on their trip to a bowl game this year.
I typed “lose” money in quotation marks because we need to come to an understanding before this blog continues.
No major college football program is truly “losing” money by participating in bowl games. Any athletic official or journalist that says or writes that teams are losing money in bowl games are playing a selective accounting game with those that are willing to believe that nonsense.
Bowl games are generating incredible revenue to football conferences that is trickling down to a relative bounty at the school level.
Now, let me help you understand the propaganda that is letting you think that some major college football programs are losing money on the bowl trip. Let’s put it in terms of reality and something that you and I can understand in common terms. Journalists saying football programs are losing money on bowl games is equivalent to you saying that you are losing money by paying for gas in your car as you travel to and from work.
Saying you lose money by paying for gas to and from work ignores the very obvious fact that once at work you are provided a salary that more than makes up for the travel to and from work in gas money. And media that suggest that athletic departments lose money on going to bowl games ignores the facts of the conference windfall that is paid back down to athletic departments for conference affiliations, contract affiliations, and television deals.
College football is not a money drain on athletic departments in BCS Conferences. Quite the opposite. College football is a source of extraordinary income for athletic departments in BCS Conferences.
That’s not to say that there are not expenses along the way. The system is not set up for all revenue with zero expenses. Expenses will most certainly occur, and traveling to a bowl game most certainly is going to be an expense. But those expenses in no way shape or form equate to a financial drain on a school or athletic department in a major conference.
Part of the reason the television networks are willing to align with the conferences by dumping tons of money on mega television deals is because of the bowl alliances that guarantee that conference teams will play in bowl games at the end of the season. The fact that the ACC will be represented in the Discover Orange Bowl on January 4th is one of the driving reasons ESPN and ABC are willing to shell out millions of dollars for broadcasting rights of the ACC during the regular season.
I will use Clemson as a real life example. Clemson’s reported “loss” of $180,000 is a bug on the windshield to the big picture of conference alignment with the television networks, which is integrated throughout the bowl financial structure. In fact, that $180,000 loss equates to less than 1% of the expenses for a typical calendar year budget at Clemson.
According to USA Today, during the 2009-10 calendar year, the Clemson Athletic Department generated $57,562,999 in income to coincide with $56,780,518 in expenses. That is a net gain of $782,481 in a year before the busty new contract the ACC signed with ESPN. While you may notice that is not a massive net gain of revenue, it is fair to note that the expenses incurred during that calendar year include facility upgrades, coaches salaires, and payments to the University just to name a few. Athletic Departments are not profit making corporations. If you can build facilities and pay huge salaires to coaches and still turn a profit in a calendar year, things are well off in your program.
You should also note that this was Total Athletic Department revenue and expenses, not just football. Keep in mind that the vast majority of those revenues at Clemson are because of football and a large portion of the expenses are for programs other than football that do not generate revenue. In other words, Clemson football is carrying the load for the programs at Clemson that do not generate revenue. I realize that is not breaking news with most of you, but it needs to be pointed out nonetheless.
Should you feel sorry for any football program taking a “loss” on going to a bowl game? Absolutely not. Unless, of course, those same football programs refuse to accept the money that will come into their bank account from the other conference teams playing in bowl games and the income generated from million dollar television deals conference negotiate.
One final thought that should clue you in to how little this “loss” really means to an athletic program, just take Clemson as a perfect example.
Our football team, coaches, coach’s families, athletic department, athletic department families, and an assortment of athletic department staff are in Miami right now. In fact, they arrived 8 days prior to the actual game being played. That’s quite a few plane flights, hotel rooms, per diems, and other expenses that could have been greatly reduced had the entourage not left for Miami until one or two days before the game.
Part of “losing” an estimated $180,000 on the Discover Orange Bowl is because we chose to spend a really long time treating our team and those surrounding it to a wonderful week in Florida. If there were real concerns about how this $180,000 loss was going to impact our atheltic program, cuts could have been made in the trip to easliy make up that loss.
Don’t get me wrong, making the bowl trip a week long event is not a criticism. A bowl game should be a reward for all of those folks mentioned below. It can even be used as a recruiting tool for players and future coaches as a demonstration of how well those that work in and around the Athletic Department will be treated during bowl season.
But I’m not going to fall prey to feeling sorry for anyone that is “losing” money on a bowl game when you turn the trip for all involved with the program into an 8 day trip when it could have been a 2 day trip just like any other road game.
In fairness to Clemson in particular, all of the athletic department officials I have spoken to are very appreciative of what they have with this trip. I have not heard anyone at Clemson bemoan the fact that we are losing $180,000 on this bowl trip. I simply used Clemson as a real life example for those in the media that use fuzzy accounting to make a point about a broken bowl system.
Broken only if you think paying for gas in your car to go to work and earn $50,000 a year is a raw deal.
Scott Rhymer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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