Chris Graham: Congrats, UVa., now … don’t go
The good news: Virginia’s surprise win at Miami last week has the Cavs in position to become bowl-eligible for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. At 5-3, and with winnable games at Maryland this weekend and at home against Duke on Nov. 12, UVa. seems a lock to get to six, and who knows … neither Florida State nor Virginia Tech seems unconquerable this year, so we could be talking decent bowl this year.
Now to the bad news: Bowls are a losing prospect no matter where you play, and yes, I’m talking even if Virginia were to run the table all the way to the Orange Bowl.
According to the book Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series, Virginia Tech suffered a loss of nearly $2.2 million on its trip to the Orange Bowl in 2009, all because of requirements in bowl contracts that schools have to buy gobs of tickets at face value when nobody pays face value for tickets anymore, and because of add-ons to the game experience like the required lengthy stays that programs and their traveling parties need to make at official bowl hotels at top-of-the-line room rates.
So if you lose money going to the BCS game, then surely you lose money going to the Toilet Bowl, which, no offense, is where teams that are just hoping for that sixth win to get into contention for the postseason end up heading, right?
Right. Maybe not on the grand scale that we saw with Virginia Tech and the ’09 Orange Bowl, but it’s still a losing proposition to play in the lower-rung non-BCS bowls.
You’re still required to buy boxes full of tickets at face value that fans can get on StubHub for pennies the day of the game, and you still have to pay for the team and coaches and the band and assorted hangers-on to stay at some downtown hotel for several nights at full freight.
If you’re thinking none of this makes any sense, you’re right, it doesn’t. Bowls are supposed to make money for football programs, which in turn are supposed to make money to fund the rest of their athletics departments.
Well, at Virginia, the athletics department budget is balanced in part on the backs of student fees, $11.9 million of which went to athletics if fiscal-year 2009, according to Transylvania University study.
Only 14 of the 120 Division I-A athletics departments made money in fiscal-year ’09, according to that study. The rest needed serious transfusions of cash from student fees and higher ticket prices to keep the train chugging down the tracks.
So if the prospect of a bowl game makes it even more likely that UVa. will have to hit up its students or season-ticket holders for more money, I say … pass. Until the current BCS system is scrapped for a meaningful playoff, there’s only one postseason game that means anything, and if you’re not playing in that one, then it’s a guarantee that you’re going to end your season on a down note.