According to the Hartford Courant, the University of Connecticut football team lost $1.6m by playing in the January 1 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
How can a school lose money by playing in a BCS bowl game you might ask? Well the answer is that when schools play in Bowl Games they have to sell a certain number of tickets. For the Fiesta Bowl, UConn was allocated 10,000 tickets. They only sold about 4,600 of these 10,000 tickets.
UConn’s ticket allocation was worth $3,349,835, and they made only $676,248 from ticket sales. So the school was out $2,673,587 on ticket sales alone.
Add in other expenses like travel costs for band and players, hotels, etc and UConn’s ended up losing more than $1.6 million for playing in the Fiesta Bowl.
Now that loss is offset by the $3.8 million that UConn will get from the Big East as their cut of the Big East’s bowl revenue. But they would have received this whether they played in a bowl game or not.
You would not know it with all the college bowl games, but often it is cheaper for a school not to play in them, and just collect a share of the conference’s bowl revenue instead.
UConn is not the only school to lose money playing in a BCS game. Ohio State lost $1 million for the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer while Virginia Tech lost $1.77 million when it went to the 2009 Orange Bowl, according to the Virginian Pilot of Norfolk.