MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami) – The 2014 Orange Bowl features a matchup of two storied football programs in Ohio State and Clemson. The game is expected to be one of the best of the bowl season, but it’s still possibly a loser for both teams due to the outgoing BCS system.
The Orange Bowl is one of the most storied bowl games in the nation and has hosted multiple national championship games throughout its history. Teams including Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford, and Oklahoma, to name a few, have all played in the Orange Bowl.
As part of the BCS, the major bowls (Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, and Rose) pay out $18 million to schools that is then divided among the teams in the schools conference. But, even with the large payout, most schools that play in the BCS end up losing money on the bowl game.
Much of the problem for bowl games comes from schools being required to purchase 17,500 tickets if they are selected to play in one of the four BCS games or the BCS National Championship game. If the school doesn’t sell its allotment for most bowl games, the school or the conference must cover the costs.
When Ohio State played in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, it sold 9,983 tickets and the Big Ten paid for the rest. This year, the Toledo Blade reported an OSU spokesman said the school had sold roughly 7,000 of its 17,500 tickets that are priced between $90 and $240.
In 2012, Clemson played Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl and both schools/conferences had to pay for 15,000 tickets that they couldn’t sell. In 2009, UConn went to the Fiesta Bowl but lost $1.8 million after paying for 14,729 unsold tickets mandated by the BCS, according to the Hearst Foundation.
The Alabama Crimson Tide, which has no problems packing a stadium, ended up losing a combined $3.76 million in the 2010 and 2012 BCS National Championship games. Auburn also lost nearly $615,000 on its BCS National Champions game appearance in 2011, according to the Hearst Foundation.
This season, the University of Central Florida became the youngest school to ever get into a BCS game when it traveled to the Fiesta Bowl Wednesday night. UCF had to return 10,000 of its 17,500 ticket allotment, or approximately $3.4 million in unsold tickets, according to USA Today.
Even storied programs like Michigan and LSU, playing in smaller bowl games, wound up with thousands of unsold tickets for their games as well, according to CBSSports.com.
Another issue impacting ticket sales for schools is the secondary market. For example, on Tiqiq.com as of late Thursday morning, tickets for the Orange Bowl could be found for as little as $25. Even lower-level seats near the 50-yard-line were selling for as little as $133.
Still, things will get better for schools starting next season. A college football playoff is being instituted next season and the major bowl games will rotate as semifinal games. ESPN also paid $7.3 billion to televise the playoffs through 2026 and schools will not be required to buy as many tickets for the games.
But until the final second ticks off in the 2014 BCS National Championship game, many schools will likely lose money this year for their bowl game appearances. Luckily though, the 2014 Orange Bowl should provide quite a game to close out the BCS era in South Florida.