Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher isn’t going to let Northern Illinois’ trip to the Orange Bowl become a financial loss.
The share of revenue the five non-automatic qualifying conferences will receive from NIU’s BCS appearance will be around $12 million. Steinbrecher said the MAC expects to receive roughly two-thirds of that money, about $8 million, with the league’s presidents coming up with a plan to distribute the funds among the MAC’s schools sometime this week.
Another $12-14 million will be split among the five non-AQ leagues and the amount allocated to the MAC will be based on competitive performance following the bowl season, according to the MAC office.
While the potential payout for NIU looks nice from the outside, there’s also the costs teams have when competing at bowl games.
For example, the Huskies will stay at the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. They will take a charter flight to Miami, buses to and from practice, meals, etc.
The school also has to pay for seats at Sun Life Stadium for the band.
However, the MAC will cover NIU’s ticket and hotel obligations, paying for them out of the MAC’s BCS revenue. The conference will pay for NIU’s allotment of 17,500 tickets, but will also take back potential revenue from ticket sales.
Tickets sold by NIU range from $75-$225. One reason Northern Illinois could have trouble selling its ticket allotment is the lack of resale value in the secondary market.
On Tuesday night, tickets in the upper deck of Sun Life Stadium were available for less than $10 on StubHub. Seats in the 100-level sections in the stadium’s lower bowl could be purchased for less than $40.
Compher said that as of Tuesday, more than 2,000 students have requested tickets. NIU is giving each student the opportunity to obtain one free ticket. Compher added NIU has sold more than 1,100 additional tickets, and he feels good about the ticket sales so far.
However, Compher was also worried about being able to cover NIU’s costs, and was grateful to the MAC for helping the school out.
In the past, schools have lost money in BCS bowl games because they couldn’t sell their full ticket allotment. Connecticut lost $1.8 million after competing in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.
“My biggest concern was being able to cover our expenses, and our obligations to participate in this bowl, and I’m very grateful for [What the MAC has done],” Compher said.
The first non-AQ school to bust the BCS was Utah in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. Utah sports information director Liz Abel said the Utes sold all of their allotment at Sun Devil Stadium, and even bought some tickets from Pittsburgh.
In the end, Utah sold 20,000 tickets, and Abel estimated there were 50,000 Utes fans at the game.
In the past, non-AQs which have busted the BCS, have had no problem selling their tickets. Boise State sold out its entire 17,500 allotment when the Broncos went to Fiesta Bowls in 2006 and 2010.
Boise State sports information director Max Corbet estimated the school made $3 million off its first BCS appearance and half that when it participated for a second time in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. The Broncos were a BCS at-large team and the revenue share wasn’t as big. Hawaii sold 13,208 tickets at the Sugar Bowl in 2008, and sold part of its allocation to its opponent, Georgia.
While those schools did a good job with ticket sales, they also had a much higher average attendance than NIU did in DeKalb this season. Boise State averaged 30,453 fans in 2006 and Hawaii had an average of 43,514 fans in 2007.
In DeKalb this season, the Huskies averaged 15,670.
Still, Compher felt confident about being able to bring fans to south Florida when speaking at the Yordon Center following the announcement of his team’s Orange Bowl berth.
“We’ve got 190,000 alums in this area, and we want to give all of them an opportunity to come down there. The first 17,500 will get that opportunity,” Compher said. “I just think it’s a wonderful thing and I think all of our people will rally around that. I think we’ll see Huskie fans at a bowl game like we’ve never seen before, because this is one special opportunity for this program.”
In the end, Steinbrecher didn’t want to see NIU lose money off the conference’s first BCS appearance.
Speaking via teleconference Sunday night, the MAC commissioner said he was going to find a way to make sure NIU came out ahead financially.
“I think I can speak very confidently that we can manage it in such a way that Northern Illinois will not be put in financial risk participating in this game,” Steinbrecher said.