DeKALB – After more than a $425,000 deficit combined from its past two bowl games, Northern Illinois University athletic director Jeff Compher was prepared for another heavy financial hit in December when the football team played in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Compher said the athletic department budgeted and expected to pay similar expenses for the team’s trip to Boise, Idaho, which resulted in a 40-17 win against Fresno State.
Instead, Compher told the Daily Chronicle on Tuesday that NIU received a $50,097 profit.
Compher said he didn’t know the athletic department would break even until all the expenses were totaled. When he saw the Huskies’ profit after budgeting for a $250,000 loss, he could hardly believe it.
“I said, ‘Run the numbers again. That can’t be right,’ ” Compher said.
NIU’s total expenses from the trip were $424,903, which included travel costs for team, administration and family, along with meal, lodging and other miscellaneous expenses. The
total was less than the $475,000 allowance negotiated between the Mid-American Conference and Humanitarian Bowl officials. The payout is more than double the $200,000 received from the International Bowl in 2010.
“I think they wanted us pretty bad and were willing to give us a good rate, knowing that they needed a partner,” Compher said of the Humanitarian Bowl. “I wasn’t there for that, but I’m sure that was a factor – that they wanted to secure a long-term partnership. And it probably took this amount of money to do that from the conference’s perspective, knowing that you’re not able to take a lot of fans, you’re not able to sell a lot of tickets because it is expensive to get there.”
Compher said the revenue will go into a general athletic account, much like money received from scheduling contracts. In the multimillion dollar environment of college athletics, $50,000 doesn’t amount to much. But combined with the money NIU budgeted and didn’t spend, Compher said it gives the athletic department a jump-start preparing for a possible bowl bid this fall.
“We put it back into those accounts so that we would have that money because next year we could have additional expenses,” Compher said. “So we put it in there and can hopefully accumulate dollars so that next year when we budget it won’t be a significant hit for us as we look to expenditures for the following year.”
Several factors gave NIU a better bottom line than the $271,152 deficit it received from the International Bowl in Toronto. The obvious was not having to travel to Canada, which meant avoiding the currency exchange and having to buy passports.
The game’s Dec. 22 date also helped. As opposed to the International Bowl, which was played Jan. 2, 2010, the Humanitarian Bowl comes at the beginning of the bowl season. This required the team to stay on campus for a shorter time period, creating a lower cost of living during winter break.
The Humanitarian Bowl’s biggest advantage – and one NIU anticipated – is it doesn’t require participants to purchase and sell a certain number of tickets. NIU didn’t receive ticket revenue, but associate athletic director for business Debra Boughton said the athletic department saved money overall because it is rare for schools to sell the number of tickets they’re forced to purchase. For the 2008 Independence Bowl, NIU was forced to spend $420,620 to buy 12,000 tickets.
“The fact that the MAC negotiated that is genius for schools like us, in my opinion,” Boughton said. “It’s just not another expense you have to consider. So you can start off and just look at, ‘What do we need to do to get there?’ instead of having to manage this other component.”
Even though $50,000 isn’t a large chunk of money compared to the athletic department’s total budget, Compher said it’s a welcome break from the past years’ norm.
“People use the term ‘loss,’ and they use the term in a way that there’s not value associated with what we’re doing, going to a bowl game,” Compher said. “This, at least on paper, indicates that it doesn’t always cost you dollars to go to a bowl game, not in every circumstance.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Expense allowance from Mid-American Conference: $475,000
Meals/lodging per diem: $104,166
Other expenses (entertainment, promotion, awards, etc.): $86,809
Total expenses: $424,903
Net gain: $50,097
Net loss for 2010 International Bowl: $271,152
Net loss for 2008 Independence Bowl: $154,125