Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — While it remains to be seen where the Utah Utes will be going bowling, one thing is certain — they won't be losing money.
The Pac-12 has a system in place to ensure that all expenses are covered, including charter flights.
Aside from BCS trips to the Fiesta and Sugar bowls, Utah athletics director Chris Hill acknowledged it's the best financial situation the Utes have had for a bowl game.
"Mainly because there's really no risk of losing funding," he said while noting there were times in the Mountain West Conference where it was a financial drain to go to a bowl game.
That isn't an issue in the Pac-12.
Although Utah won't begin revenue sharing until next year — on a gradual basis that includes a 50 percent share in 2012-13, a 75 percent cut in 2013-14 and full distribution the following year — the Utes are entitled to the conference's "expense budget" by qualifying for a bowl game this season. They would have received nothing had they not made it.
Of Utah's five bowl possibilities, the Alamo is the most lucrative with a expense budget of $1.19 million. The Holiday Bowl is a close second with $1.13 million. A $750,000 expense budget is awarded for berths in the Las Vegas, Sun and Kraft Fight Hunger bowls.
Expense budgets in the Pac-12 can incorporate various things other than basics like lodging and ground transportation. It can include bonuses for the coaches and mailers to ticket holders.
In addition, Pac-12 bowl teams can receive a subsidy that will cover up to half the cost of unsold bowl ticket commitments.
Utah, which will learn its destination next Sunday when bowl selections are announced, is responsible for 11,000 tickets if invited to the Holiday, Las Vegas or Kraft Fight Hunger games. The Alamo Bowl has a ticket commitment of 9,500, while the Sun Bowl calls for 8,000.
"There's no question this is the best situation we've had besides going to the BCS games," Hill said. "No matter what bowl game we go to, the reimbursement in the Pac-12 formula makes it easy to make sure you pay your expenses."
After the BCS selections, including the Pac-12's Rose Bowl affiliation, are made, the conference partners will chose participants in the following order: Alamo, Holiday, Sun, Las Vegas and Kraft Fight Hunger bowls. The New Mexico Bowl follows (with an expenses only reimbursement), but isn't expected to come into play with Oregon and Stanford expected to earn BCS bids and USC ineligible for postseason play.
Then there's the possible monkey wrench of UCLA mixing things up with an upset win over Oregon in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game this Friday. That, however, is as unlikely as (insert your favorite punch line here).
The Bruins, Washington, California, Utah and Arizona State are the expected pool of teams to be tabbed by the affiliated bowls other than the "Grand-Daddy of them All."
Hill noted that Utah is eager to land in any of them.
"It's very different (than the Mountain West) because there's so many bowls lined up," he said. "They're all very positive as far as visibility and the financial support."
The bottom line only gets better when the Utes are in the revenue-sharing mix, beginning next season.
"I think it's a very equitable situation where it allows for teams to really be competitive," said Steve Smith, the Utah athletic department's director of accounting. He compared it to the NFL's successful model.
The Pac-12 is a great league, Smith added, and attributes a lot of its strength to the equitable television money that is coming.
All in all, life in the Pac-12 has definitely been a positive — even if Utah wasn't guaranteed any bowl money this year. The Utes had to earn it and they did, at least when it comes to the safety net of not losing any money by going bowling.
"It ended up being that we made more money this year than we would have made had we stayed in the Mountain West Conference — even being a zero revenue-sharing team," Smith said.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has scheduled a team meeting for Monday to discuss bowl possibilities and work on an initial outline for preparations. He intends to utilize all of the allotted 15 practices.
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