The Grandaddy of debt. Can you really put a price tag on going to the Rose Bowl? If you're Iowa, then yes, it turns out that you can -- and that price is approximately $2.8 million, which is more than the the $2.5 million allotted to Iowa for bowl expenses by the Big Ten. Iowa took a bath in the amount of $228,445 on their trip to the Rose Bowl, per Vanessa Miller at The Gazette. Why? Well, in addition to everyone and their second cousin wanting to go the Rose Bowl, it turns out that Los Angeles is a lot more expensive than, say, Jacksonville.
Charter flight costs rose nearly 30 percent, or $226,174, from the UI's appearance in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., according to data provided to The Gazette. Lodging and meal expenses soared 71 percent, or $485,505, from 2015. And the department's cost for complementary tickets more than doubled this year from last â hitting $197,955, compared with $99,415 last year.
Who knew! Of course, while Iowa technically lost money on their trip to Pasadena (which was covered by Iowa athletic department funds, not any sort of taxpayer monies, less any irate Iowa State fans get cranky about their tax dollars paying to send an Iowa drummer out to California), they came out way, way ahead overall thanks to a big increase in licensing dollars:
The Gazette last month reported the university brought in nearly $1.63 million in royalties for invoiced sales of items bearing UI trademarks between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. That was more than twice the $727,374 in royalties the university collected during the same period the previous year. And it was 61 percent above the $1 million in royalties the university reported at the end of 2011 â the next best year for royalty revenue since at least 2008, according to UI records.
All that Rose Bowl-emblazoned Iowa swag you couldn't wait to buy last winter paid off handsomely for the university -- and the exposure Iowa got from being in that game should continue to benefit the university for a while. Just imagine how much more they might have made if they hadn't gotten blasted off the field by Stanford, too!
Money, money, money. Speaking of athletic department finances, USA Today released their annual report of NCAA finances last week. Iowa ranks in the Top 20 (20th, to be precise) in terms of athletic department revenues, although even a nine-figure revenue total ($105,969,545) wasn't enough to totally cover all of their expenses from last year (109,214,651). Perhaps the added costs went to rivalry trophy maintenance. Iowa ranks 7th in the Big Ten in terms of overall revenues. Ohio State and Michigan are far ahead of the pack (surprise), although even they trail the financial Death Stars down in Texas.
Gold-flake cupcakes. Where's all that revenue going? Well, part of it is going to pay the increasingly exorbitant fees it takes to get a non-Power 5 team to visit Iowa City for a one-off game, as reported by Scott Dochterman at The Gazette:
Over the next three seasons, Iowa will pay six non-conference opponents a total of $5 million to play at Kinnick Stadium, according to contracts obtained by The Gazette via an open-records request. Three schools â Miami (Ohio), Wyoming, Northern Illinois â each will receive $1 million checks. North Texas picks up $900,000, Northern Iowa $600,000 and North Dakota State $500,000.
This system has always been faintly ridiculous, but now it's getting increasingly absurd. Paying $1 million for a game no one is especially interested to play in or watch doesn't seem to make much sense. Then again, games like this persist because a 12-game schedule has to get filled out somehow and for now the revenues that come from additional home games outstrip the costs of paying (relatively) big money to bring those schools to town in the first place. When the balance tips in that financial equation, then we'll probably start to see some different approaches to scheduling. In the meantime, the least Miami (OH) and Wyoming can do is take their paycheck and their beating, right?
Caring is costly. Meanwhile, Dochterman and The Gazette also published a breakdown of the money each Big Ten school devotes to recruiting (except Northwestern, who is not required to release that information as a private institution).
Iowa ranks 8th in the conference in recruiting costs and has increased spending by almost 21% since 2012. That's the fourth-smallest cost increase in the Big Ten (including Maryland, who is somehow spending almost 20% less on recruiting since joining the Big Ten). The arrival of SEC-bred recruiting gurus like Urban Meyer and James Franklin as well as the increasing athletic arms race in the state of Michigan has exploded the recruiting landscape in the Big Ten. Everyone's devoting more money and more resources (again, except Maryland, apparently) to recruiting these days.
That said, as the article discusses, it's hard to make 1:1 comparisons in costs because there isn't a set standard of what constitutes a recruiting expense and what doesn't -- schools are instead free to make those determinations on their own, which can lead to some discrepancies.
So what is the difference? Each institution catalogs revenues and expenses differently. That's part of the reason why the Badgers' numbers appear so low, said Mario Morris, Wisconsin's associate athletics director for business operations.
"Some things we use for recruiting may be categorized in other areas," Morris said. "Maybe a recruiting software, which is an expense all coaches incur, that would be categorized by office supply or subscriptions category. There is no recruiting type of supplies categories that would go in. That's one small example."
Wisconsin itemized airfare provided by boosters as "other operating expenses" in the past. For the 2015 fiscal year, that totaled $11,700. Moving forward, Morris said those trips will be counted as recruiting expenditures.
Illinois' numbers rank among the highest for the opposite reason. The Illini designate anything recruited-related as recruiting. That includes gifts in-kind from airfare to meals. Illinois registered $2.98 million in football expenses over the last four years. That's the second-most among Big Ten West Division schools, nearly $1.3 million more than Iowa ($1.714 million) and $1.95 million more than Wisconsin. Yet the Illini have a 6-26 Big Ten record over this data cycle.
So while Iowa's recruiting costs might seem a bit low for a team in a relatively talent-poor state, until the factors that go into determining recruiting costs are more standardized, it's difficult to really compare the amount of money they spend on recruiting versus what their peers are spending on recruiting.
Popping bubbles? All this discussion of money in college sports begs a few questions: where's it all coming from and how likely is it to keep flowing? The first question is fairly simple (TV, stupid), but the second question is not. While some have posited that the college sports revenue model is unstable and the product of a bubble that's doomed to pop any... day... now, analyst John Gasaway is skeptical of that notion:
Far from being an "unstable situation," college sports in general, college basketball more especially, and the NCAA tournament in particular instead present a series of successively smaller and progressively more advantageously situated concentric circles characterized by an unusual degree of hardiness solely as media properties. There are variables in play, naturally, and it's not too much to term the threat of legal exposure "existential" â with regard to the NCAA. I don't know who or what will be governing the sport in 2032, and I do trust that by then the players will have long since been receiving their fair share of the resulting revenues.
But if we view the essentials of the tournament as nothing more or less than 68 college teams playing 67 games of win-or-go-home basketball over three weeks from mid-March to early April, I'm yet to see anything even remotely persuasive in the way of a Book of Revelation. The essentials are eyeballs and basketballs, and if a tournament that earned record-setting revenues for a decade before, during and after the largest economic calamity since the Great Depression constitutes a bubble, well, put me down as bullish on this particular bubble.
* Schools can now pay for parents/guardians to accompany recruits on official visits (previously schools could only cover the costs of the recruits themselves; if a parent or guardian wanted to accompany them, they'd have to pay their own way).
* This story about the Iowa Ladies Football Academy and the children with cancer that it helps will hit you right in the feels.