TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There’s no denying what fuels the college football bowl season.
It’s green and piles high for those invited.
Simply playing in the postseason means a healthy payout, but it isn’t as simple as cashing the check.
Bowl season is full of asterisks, fine print in an interesting study in how the numbers add up, who benefits and who is left out.
The most-referenced number is the payout received by each team playing in a bowl game. For Alabama, playing in the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl against Michigan State means a pay day of $4.6 million -- at least that’s how it comes in to start. The payout from last season’s Bowl Championship Series national title game was $18 million.
Outside factors, though, play into how much is actually received.
First the bowlsells each school 12,500 tickets to the game. Any seats left unsold is a loss for the school, but Alabama easily sold its share, with a few thousand extra ticket requests to spare.
Matt Repchak, the associate director of communications for the Capital One Bowl, said the tickets that don’t sell are donated to underprivileged children in the Orlando area.
Travel expenses also come out of the payout -- a number that wasn’t known before the team arrived in Orlando but one that won’t be low considering it’s a resort area in a holiday season. The standard rate for a room at the team hotel next week is $199 per night.
After expenses, the team payouts from all the SEC bowl teams are added together and distributed to the conference’s 12 members. Last season, the 12 teams shared $22 million from the BCS alone, according to the Sports Business Journal, with Alabama and Florida playing in the premier games. Including the other bowl games with teams from the SEC, and $26.5 million ultimately was distributed.
Revenue from various sources
The source of the payout cash comes from a few different places.
According to tax documents posted on guidestar.org from bowl host Florida Citrus Sports Association, the 2009 Capital One Bowl generated $6.1 million from media rights, $4.4 million from tickets and nearly $64,000 from corporate tents. Total revenue, including merchandising, was more than $11.9 million.
Not all the money made goes back into the pockets of the participating universities.
The Capital One Bowl is hosted by the Florida Citrus Sports Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that benefits children in the Central Florida region.
According to tax filings, the foundation paid $209,717 in scholarships for the 2008 tax year when revenues totaled $532,347. Another $275,226 went to expenses for children’s camps.
“We tend to focus on programs that give opportunities to youth in Central Florida that otherwise wouldn’t have those opportunities,” Repchak said. “We have a summer camp program that emphasizes academics and character building that is free to families that qualify.”
Players also benefit
The players also come away from the bowl experience with more goodies with than they had when they arrived.
NCAA rules allow for players to receive gifts totaling $500 at each bowl game. At the Capital One Bowl this season, that means a $420 shopping spree at a local Best Buy and an $80 watch for each Alabama and Michigan State player. The bowl host pays for the gifts that totaled $164,626 in 2009.
It’s just one of the many perks of the postseason that Alabama players said they were more than excited to receive. For center William Vlachos, spending money on technology won’t be so easy.
“I’m not big on electronics; my dad has to hook up my DVD player,” he said. “I’m not good with electronics. I don’t have many. I’ll have to get in there and find something, maybe a bunch of movies. I don’t know.”
Electronics are fine, but don’t try to bring any form of gambling to a bowl game associated with the NCAA. Alcohol is another frowned upon venture with the bowls.
A 47-page postseason football guide published by the NCAA spells out a host of rules pertaining to who can advertise, host or sell products at bowl games and surrounding events.
For example, title sponsors may not be any form of a lottery (page 24) and no bowl-sponsored activity can take place in a casino (page 22).
When it comes to a major money-maker in booze, the handbook is less restrictive.
“Although the NCAA encourages sponsoring agencies to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages,” the book states, “it is the prerogative of the bowl to determine if these products shall be sold or otherwise made available for public consumption.”
Repchak said alcohol will be for sale at the game.
Advertisements from tobacco companies, organizations promoting gambling and beverages exceeding 6 percent alcohol by volume are prohibited.
At the end of the day, two teams will play a 60-minute football game on a 100-yard field.
Those numbers tell just part of the story behind the inner-workings of a major college football bowl game.
It’s that green-colored fuel, though, that powers the machine every December and January.