College Football Guarantees: How Much for Away Games?

D. WalkerAnalyst IDecember 20, 2009

Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier is searching for BCS conference teams to play. What kind of financial guarantee can he expect to be paid? The rates for FCS teams have been climbing and fast. But what are they for the Boise States of the college football world?

The Bowl Championship Series conference teams are beginning to love the BCS system, and the 12 game schedule ruling isn't bad either. Why? They now have a schedule that not only includes some real cream puffs but they are making more money too! What a deal!

With the additional 12th game, almost all BCS conference schools are using that as yet another home game, which equates to more annual revenue. It also appears that it means more wins, albeit against the sisters of the poor.

The coaches, players, and fans of Delaware State knew their chances of winning when they traveled to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan were slim to none. But they received $550,000 to play the game.

Delaware State's payday of $550,000 for one game at Michigan is the equivalent of two years of home game revenues in their 7,000 seat stadium.

"From a competitive standpoint it's not an ideal situation," said Delaware State Head Coach Al Lavan. "But you always have hope."

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For the record, hope fell short for the Hornets. In a tough battle from start to finish that had all 106,000 fans in Michigan Stadium sitting on the edges of their seats, Delaware State lost the nail-biter 63-6.

On that very same Saturday in October, Western Kentucky received $700,000 to play at Tennessee, Montana State made $650,000 to play at Michigan State, Charleston Southern was paid $450,000 for playing at defending national champion Florida, and Liberty earned $365,000 to play at West Virginia.

Navy received a record payout by Ohio State, a whopping $1 million, for their game in Columbus this year. Generally Ohio State would not pay that much to a visiting team but the pageantry associated with a national service academy warranted paying Navy $1 million.

In the past, the Buckeyes have paid $750,000 to $850,000 in guaranteed money out of net revenues that run between $3.8 million and $4.5 million per game depending on weather and concession sales.

Arkansas State will receive $1 million for games at Auburn in 2010 and at Virginia Tech in 2011.

Neutral site games are also potential huge paydays. Boise State will receive $1.25 million for a game at Fed-Ex Field against Virginia Tech next year. The real whopper is that Texas A&M and Arkansas will each be paid $5 million per year to play their annual game at Jerry's World (Cowboy Stadium). That's better than BCS bowl money, and they don't have to share with the rest of the conference!

For schools such as Michigan and Ohio State, in the top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), such games represent a good way to fill their stadiums and luxury suites and enjoy a little "tune up" for the bigger games down the road.

Yes, there is a risk that they could lose to the lower-tier FCS schools as Michigan did in 2006 against Appalachian State (who was paid $400,000), but those upsets are very rare.

These days, college football powers often find themselves in bidding wars over small-school opponents. When the NCAA went to a permanent 12-game schedule for the FBS in 2006, it opened the flood gates to get the smaller schools on the schedule.

Ohio State's Athletic Director Gene Smith says the number of guaranteed games, especially those against FCS opponents, began to increase as major programs scrambled to fill their schedules.

"It's an issue of supply and demand," Smith said. "You have about 120 FBS schools, with six major conferences and about 10 or 11 teams in each league. Everybody is trying to play about four non-conference games a year and wants to play them in September before the league schedule starts."

Because of the schedule squeeze, the visiting team often is the one with the leverage. It can negotiate a higher price or break off talks and start dealing with another school.

"In coming years, the going rate will be $1 million in guaranteed money," Smith said.

Is it flowers and candy for all FBS schools? That doesn't appear to be the case.

BSU Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier has stated that he will "play anybody, anywhere, anytime" yet he can't find a BCS school that will play his Broncos.

Bleymaier has also stated that he would like to receive "fair market value" for an away game. If Arkansas State is getting $1 million to play Auburn and Virginia Tech, shouldn't Boise State get $1 million to play a "one-away-game deal" too?

Sounds fair to me, but for some reason nobody will take them up on their offer.

The biggest complaint you hear about Boise State from the so called experts on college football is "but they don't play anybody!" How can they play somebody when nobody will play them?

Didn't the Ohio State athletic director say there was a bidding war going on for games in September? Boise State has holes in their September schedule. So what’s the deal?

The BCS "elite" programs are looking for the cream puffs, weak sisters of the poor, and the cupcakes to come into their stadium and play a game. Remember, it's a bidding war going on out there so they are willing to pay a lot in guarantee money.

Why won't the elite BCS programs play the Boise State's of the world for the same amount of guaranteed money? Can you see where I'm going with this?

According to the "experts," Boise State doesn't play enough BCS conference teams. In order to gain the respect of the national media, they need to boost their schedule with BCS programs. But there aren't any BCS programs that want to play the Broncos!

BSU has offered to play home and home games, guarantee away games, neutral site games, and yet, with the exception of Virginia Tech, none of the BCS schools will agree to a game even though some schools are scrambling to fill their future schedules.

When a fan buys their annual season tickets to watch their favorite "elite" BCS program play are they getting the value they once received? If your favorite "elite" BCS team had the option of giving the fans a game against Delaware State or Boise State, which game would the fan like to see?

It is very clear that the 12-game BCS schedule is great for the FCS schools and other lower-tier conferences, but for a non-BCS conference school like Boise State it has a negative effect, and it doesn't look like it's going to get any better soon.

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