Third Place Writing – Sports


UConn loses nearly $1.8 million at the 2011 Fiesta Bowl

By Michael Cerullo

The UConn athletic department lost nearly $1.8 million at the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, according to bowl documents obtained by The Daily Campus.

The university incurred total expenses of $4,280,998 at the Fiesta Bowl while only receiving a payout of $2,523,200 from the Big East.

By far the largest expense the university incurred came from absorbed ticket sales. The university sold only 2,771 out of an allotment of 17,500 tickets, resulting in the university absorbing 14,729 tickets worth $2,924,385.

The official figure of 2,771 tickets sold is substantially lower than the previously reported amount of 4,600 tickets sold.

That expense completely soaked up UConn’s revenue allotment of $2.5 million from the Big East all by itself. UConn’s losses were then further inflamed by the costs of travel, meals, lodging and other bowl expenses.

The UConn athletic department did not respond to a voicemail left at the office requesting comment, but the Fiesta Bowl documents obtained did come with a survey to the NCAA that included comments from the university on it’s satisfaction with certain aspects of the bowl.

In regards to the level of satisfaction with the bowl’s ticket commitment for participating teams and the bowl’s ticket prices, the university gave the bowl a “neutral” rating for both.

“We recognize the total ticket commitment associated with this BCS bowl game, but selling 17,500 tickets is a challenge for a school from the east whose fans incur significant travel expenses,” the comment from the athletic department reads in the NCAA survey.

Travel expenses for the university were extensive as well. UConn spent a total of $685,195 on travel, spending $315,378 on 213 members of the team, coaching staff and administration over eight days ($1,481 per person) and $369,817 on 335 members of the band and cheering squad over three days ($1,104 per person).

On meals and lodging, UConn spent a total of $460,941. Of that, the university spent $215 per day on each of the 213 members of the team, staff and administration over the course of eight days, as well as $94 per day on each of the 335 members of the band and cheering squad over three days.

Other expenses that UConn incurred included entertainment, promotion, awards, equipment and supplies, administrative, band facility rental, bag tags and lanyards. These expenses combined totaled $210,477.

UConn’s nearly $1.8 million loss at the Fiesta Bowl is huge even when you consider that most schools either just break even or incur losses at bowl games. One of the biggest financial disasters at a BCS bowl game came in 2009 when Virginia Tech lost $2.2 million at the Orange Bowl, according to bowl documents obtained from Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech’s expenses at that game, however, were only $3.8 million compared to UConn’s total expenses of nearly $4.3 million. Virginia Tech’s losses were inflamed by receiving a substantially smaller bowl payout from the ACC.

The last Big East team to participate in the Fiesta Bowl before UConn was West Virginia, who faced Oklahoma at the bowl in 2008. According to bowl documents obtained from West Virginia, the school’s losses only totaled about $1 million, nearly half that of UConn.

West Virginia received a similar payout as UConn from the Big East, but their expenses totaled $3.5 million. West Virginia’s numbers were bolstered by their stronger ticket sales, out of an allotment of 17,500, the school sold 7,981 compared to UConn’s 2,771.

The document does not include bonuses awarded to former head coach Randy Edsall, his coaching staff, athletic director Jeff Hathaway or any other athletic department administrators. The document also does not include revenue earned on Fiesta Bowl related merchandise or sponsorship.