College Football Bowls Aren’t the Cash Cows They’re Made Out to Be

Schools often buy tickets in bulk and have trouble selling all of them.


Going to a bowl is a big deal in college football. It means a team has finished its season at .500 or better, and the bowl game is the sweet payoff for winning at least six regular-season games. In going to a bowl, teams get a nice week (usually somewhere warm) and a chunk of cash.

But what if bowls aren't the cash cows they're supposed to be? Turns out some schools lose boatloads of money during bowl season, the San Diego Tribune reports. The biggest loss of money comes when schools purchase tickets in bulk for an upcoming bowl, only to find limited fan interest in attending. The bulk ticket purchases by schools are guaranteed when the deal to include a school in a specific bowl game is made.

[Check out the Worst Bowl Sponsors.]

Ohio State University and the Big Ten lost $1 million in failed ticket sales for last year's Fiesta Bowl. Western Michigan University lost more than $400,000 last year when the team sold only 548 of its already purchased 11,000 tickets to the Texas Bowl. In all, the Tribune found that schools and conferences lost $15.53 million because of the ticket guarantees last year.

So much for the lucrative bowl deals, right? Experts say that many bowls wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the ticket-buy guarantees. And we wonder why the Knight Commission says the current costs of college athletics are unsustainable.

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