Requiring bowl owners to reimburse school expenses would be foolish because they'd have no control over those costs, said Pete Derzis, senior vice president and general manager of ESPN Regional Television. The Walt Disney Co.-owned network televised 73 percent of bowl games last year and owned seven, according to the company.
"I don't think we would be willing to meet some arbitrary expense line-item that some institution submits," Derzis said in an interview. "Our expectation is that the conferences know what they need to make their business work."
Bowls have their roots in promoting tourism. Michigan played Stanford in 1902 in what would become the Rose Bowl in an effort by organizers to show off Pasadena, California's weather to Easterners, according to the Rose Bowl's history.
Today, hosts still benefit. The New Orleans Bowl in Louisiana last year, where 30,228 people watched Middle Tennessee defeat Southern Mississippi, had an economic impact of $15 million, according to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. The five BCS games in January 2009 had an economic impact of about $1.2 billion on the host cities (Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena and Glendale), according to the BCS website.
The Mid-American Conference had negotiated an agreement with the Pizza Bowl where their school's payout was based solely on how many tickets it could sell, Ohio University Associate Athletic Director Dan Hauser said in an interview.
The Athens, Ohio, school received 10,000 tickets valued at $450,000. It sold 2,181 tickets, generating $98,150, for a game in Detroit about 278 miles north, at 1 p.m. the day after Christmas.
Since its expenses were $164,464, the school lost $66,314 playing in the game, according to university records.
"There was a cost, but this is our business," Hauser said. "We're about getting kids to the postseason in every sport, men's and women's. And they all cost money."
Athletic directors like Rutgers' Pernetti and Idaho's Rob Spear say one of the biggest advantages in playing a bowl game is the extra two weeks of practice coaches get to work with underclassmen. The NCAA limits the number of practices a team can have each season, but gives bowl teams an additional two weeks.
"Where it really made the difference was this spring," Spear said in an interview. "We are getting into more homes and we've been able to talk to better caliber student athletes. Does that mean we'll get that kid at the end of the day? I don't know, but at least it opens the door."
Bowls also mean payouts to coaches and administrators.
Rutgers paid $186,250 to the coaching staff for its participation in the St. Petersburg Bowl, including $50,000 to head coach Greg Schiano. Non-football staff received another $89,517. Pernetti didn't get a bonus, according to the school.
Pernetti said even the greatest supporters of money-losing bowls are being forced to consider the expense of playing in the games.
"There has not been an AD meeting with the commissioner and league where we have not discussed the issue," Pernetti said. "We talk about it constantly."
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