In the spirit of the season, college football teams are giving back.
Or, more accurately, a few schools haven’t come close to selling out their bowl ticket allotment, and are forced to eat the costs of thousands of tickets.
The numbers on Monday weren’t pretty: UCF returned 10,000 tickets while Baylor returned 5,000 tickets to the Fiesta Bowl, and Ohio State has only sold 7,000 of its 17,500-ticket allotment for the Orange Bowl. Those are just the numbers reported Monday; it’s probably fair to speculate plenty of other schools aren’t going to sell out their bowl ticket allotments.
While BCS bowls offer large payouts, schools have to pay up front for 17,500 tickets and then sell them to fans. The Toledo Blade’s David Briggs has an excellent look at just how bad the financial situation can get — for example, UConn lost $1.8 million on unsold tickets for the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.
Middle and lower-tier bowls often hurt participating teams the most. To say the crowd was sparse at Monday’s Beef O’Brady’s Bowl between East Carolina and Ohio at Tropicana Field would be a massive understament.
And while Bowling Green has seen brisk ticket sales for the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit this year, that’s not an annual luxury for it and similar schools:
At the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Bowling Green received 4,000 tickets. It sold 77 — 76 for $40 and one for $15. The athletic department and university lost a combined $154,000 after adding up expenses for the team, band, and athletic department staffers.
Toledo, meanwhile, sold about 300 tickets for last December’s Potato Bowl. It received $225,000 for the 2011 Military Bowl in Washington and $475,000 last year, but spent $518,000 and $699,000, respectively, according to school records.
Yikes. These games are a fine reward for a team’s seniors, and the added bowl practices do serve a significant purpose. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said: “You’re running a business and an organization for 365 days a year. (Not going to a bowl) would be like you’re closing down the business for a month. And that’s not good for business.”
But sometimes, these bowl games aren’t good for business, either.