There’s excitement within the Big 12 around some of the league’s bowls.
Iowa State, for instance, sold its allotment of 15,000 tickets to the Liberty Bowl and Cyclone officials are expecting 25,000 of their fans to show. The Memphis game is expected to be a sellout.
That same excitement, however, hasn’t exactly been swirling around WVU’s Dec. 26 bowl date with Utah in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl — which could leave Mountaineer officials short of a financial goal.
“With the travel party and band,” said WVU senior associate athletic director Matt Wells, “plus holding six tickets per player, we’re approaching 1,500. We have an allotment of 6,176.”
Many factors are working against the bowl and Mountaineer officials attempting to sell tickets. A WVU team once sitting at 7-3 finished at 7-5 after losing 28-14 at home to Texas and 59-31 at Oklahoma. Standout quarterback Will Grier is injured and projected to miss the game. Dallas is approximately 1,200 miles from Morgantown. And then there’s that date, one day after Christmas.
“Obviously, the holidays and date of the game has made it a tough sell,” Wells said. “From the feedback we’re getting, it’s mostly the date.”
Which will not help WVU meet its financial goal.
“We receive a travel reimbursement from the league,” said WVU athletic director Shane Lyons. “Our philosophy has always been to break even with our travel expenses. But there’s a good chance our expenses will surpass our reimbursement.”
In the big picture, WVU will be more than fine. The Big 12 takes in all bowl revenue and splits it equally between the members after expenses. The Heart of Dallas Bowl, for instance, will pay the league $1.2 million for sending the Mountaineers. Yet that’s a proverbial drop in the bucket. Last season, according to Forbes, the base payout to the league from the College Football Playoff was $55 million. Oklahoma’s berth in the CFP will contribute more than $6 million. And the Big 12 paid each school $34.8 million in June for everything earned during the 2016-17 academic year. The league’s $348 million haul was up from $304 million from the previous year.
So West Virginia will simply incur more travel expenses than it will bring in.
According to the Big 12 handbook, a league team going to the Heart of Dallas or any substitute bowl makes $680,000 as a “participation subsidy” and a “travel subsidy” of “$370/one-way mile.”
If WVU sits 1,200 miles away from Dallas, then, that would add $444,000 to the $680,000. According to Mountaineer athletic CFO Simon Dover, however, the working number from Morgantown to Dallas is 1,067 miles.
That means WVU’s final “travel subsidy” from the league will be $394,790. The total the Mountaineers will be reimbursed for the trip will be $1,074,790.
Also, West Virginia will not be responsible for the “guaranteed” allotment of 6,176 as it was in the Big East. The Big 12 covers any tickets not purchased. The Mountaineers, however, could have earned a bonus if over half the 6,176 tickets had sold. That apparently won’t happen.