State Budgets For Profitable Bowl Experience

The numbers look large enough, especially this time of the year. Certainly any business would welcome the sort of bottom-line addition the AutoZone Liberty Bowl is listed as paying participants in their 2007 classic. But how much of that $1.7 million will actually end up in Mississippi State pockets? And where do the dollars go?

Athletic director Larry Templeton is frank on the subject of Mississippi State's week-long visit to Memphis. "Our goal is to break-even," he explained to reporters this week. "And to make this a great experience and a reward for the kids."

In fact, to make Mississippi State's first post-season experience since 2000 a great one for the Bulldog players, as well as those most closely involved with the program in coaching, administrative, and support roles is why Templeton sets breaking-even as a goal. Because just like everything else related to college football, the price of postseason play has inflated. So much so, that the projected expenses of this bowl experience will use almost all of the money MSU is receiving from the Liberty Bowl.

That is, the $1,040,000 State is directly receiving out of the $1.7 payout. The rest goes to the Southeastern Conference office, as per the league's long-standing ‘share the wealth' program. All league teams playing bowls will be turning in varying amounts according to a graduated scale mandated by the SEC. For example, Louisiana State and Georgia will both receive huge checks by playing in BCS games totaling around $22 million. The two teams each get to keep $3 million of that; the rest goes to the SEC to be divided to all 12 league members.

Meanwhile back in Memphis "We have to stay within this budget we've put together," Templeton said. Some of the budget items include paying for the 146 hotel rooms booked for 107 players, coaches and their families, managers, trainers, administrative and support staff and their families as well. Even at a discounted room rate at the Peabody this will run over $130,000, or more than 10% of the budget already. And feeding the Bulldogs, both during bowl week and the ten days spent on campus practicing for the bowl, will come in around $140,000.

Player travel is also in MSU's bowl-budget as all of them get mileage from their home even if they travel from other sites and together. It is common practice for several players to ‘team up' in one vehicle to collect the NCAA-allotted funds even if they don't drive a yard themselves. Templeton added that in the case of players coming from really long distances these are flown to Memphis.

Mississippi State as an entity is reimbursed to some extent for team travel, by the mile from Starkville irregardless of how many are in the total party. But buses have to be arranged for the team travel around Memphis all week ($24,000). The University is also paying for nine buses to transport the Famous Maroon Band and cheerleaders to and around Memphis, and to house them in another hotel. Their tickets are also paid for by State, making this another six-figure line item by the time all is tallied.

Fans who only see the seven-figure payouts are surprised at some things the school must actually pay for out of their bowl revenues, such as tickets to the various bowl-week events and functions. Bowl media guides ($10,000) and supplies for the training room ($20,000) all week also add up to a projected $30,000. Just shipping out the bowl tickets purchased from State is a real expense, as is parking at the hotel.

And those goodies the players receive? The Liberty Bowl is providing up to $300 dollars worth of gifts such as a bowl watch, autographed football, and in this case an iPod that fits into a running shoe. But Mississippi State also gives out commemorative gifts of the same cost to the 2007 Bulldogs; a set of warm-ups, shoes, and when finished a ring. State also pays for the six tickets each player receives for family and friends.

Yet the largest single line in the budget goes to the coaches and football-related staff. They receive bowl bonuses, which by State's policy is an extra month's salary. Yet this isn't all, because having paid the employees a bonus the University also must pay the fringe benefits—the social security and insurance—to match, just as on any normal month's pay slip. This could run up to or over $250,000 after all the fees are calculated in. By the time all the bills are tabulated, there won't be a lot of change left over from the $1.04 million check.

But as Templeton said, this is the accepted price for doing things right in recognition of Mississippi State's return to successful football. And there are other benefits to going bowling that may not show up on this fiscal year's bottom line; but should become obvious in winning seasons to come.

"I think the other important thing about a bowl game is what coach talks about, the additional practice time for the young kids," Templeton said.

Besides, there is the good feeling for contributing to the SEC's strong financial position once again. And with nine league teams playing, Templeton projects Mississippi State's slice of the post-season pie to be about two million.

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