How difficult is it to break even on a bowl trip? Alabama played in the BCS championship game, traveled to a city within comfortable driving distance, played against a team from their own conference -- meaning they got double their own share of the SEC's BCS bowl payouts -- and still lost almost $2 million on their victorious trip to New Orleans.
That's according to the Tuscaloosa News, whose review of the program's financial documents found that the Crimson Tide had spent upwards of $3.9 million on their BCS Championship game appearance while receiving a payout of around $1.95 million.
It's true, however, that much of those massive expenses are the cost of being Alabama. They include, for instance, more than $1 million in contract bonuses paid to Nick Saban and the rest of the Crimson Tide staff for making the national title game, not exactly a routine expense for most bowl-going programs. And like their archrivals at Auburn before them, the chance to send as many students and school officials from their football-crazed campus to the game as possible also cranked up costs, with some $846,000 spent on meals and lodging for the entire traveling party and $770,000 on "complementary tickets used by staff ... [and] additional student tickets bought by UA above the number allocated by the bowl."
Of course, even Auburn -- which had much further to travel for their visit to Glendale -- still only came away having lost $600,000, and the $1.9 million lost even beats out the infamous $1.8 million price tag for Connecticut's 2011 Fiesta Bowl trip. The Tide can probably count on championship paraphernalia sales and the like to take a bug chunk out of that $1.9 million in the long run, and of course, even $1.9 million is a small price to pay for the kind of experience Alabama and all of its supporters enjoyed in New Orleans.
Nonetheless, a gigantic pile of blown cash is still a gigantic pile of blown cash. It's as clear as ever that even for the programs that can afford them, big-time bowls are going to mean big-time financial losses.
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