Last Updated on March 11, 2023
With the announcement of the teams that will play for the national title, Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma have each earned themselves or their conferences $6 million from the College Football Playoff. But there’s a big difference in what happens to that money from here.
Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma will each see their share go to their conferences, to be divided with other conference members pursuant to conference policies detailed below. Meanwhile, as an independent, Notre Dame will pocket the entire $6 million.
Here’s how the money from the semifinals breaks down for each institution after applying the policies of each conference:
$2.05 million to $4.2 million (plus travel) from the SEC
The SEC allows the school participating in the semifinals to keep $2,050,000, with an additional $2,150,000 if the team makes it to the championship game. There is also travel reimbursement set by the conference.
At this time, the ACC does not award any additional monies to the team participating in the semifinals. The conference divides all bowl revenue, including CFP revenue, evenly among its 14 members after reimbursing expenses to the participating institution. Clemson will receive the expense allotment provided by the CFP.
$6 million from CFP for participation in the semifinals, plus the $2.34 million expense reimbursement
$2.9 million for meeting its Academic Progress Rate standard
$2 million (plus travel) from the Big 12
Per the Big 12 Conference Handbook, participants in the semifinals receive a $2 million participation subsidy, plus $185 per one-way mile for travel.
If you’re trying to figure out who comes out ahead financially in the end, it gets complicated from here.
Notre Dame will also receive its contractually stipulated $2.9 million for meeting the APR standard, money it would have received regardless of its play on the field this season or its bowl assignment. Each of the Power 5 conferences receives $62 million while the Group of 5 conferences receive $85.2 million to split among themselves according to their own formula.
In addition, each conference with a team in the semifinals or an “access bowl” (the Cotton, Fiesta and Peach Bowls in years they are not semifinal sites) receives $2.34 million to cover expenses, as do independents. There is an additional $2.34 million payment for each team reaching the title game.
Each conference, however, handles that money differently.
Each institution participating in a bowl game is provided an expense allotment, but all bowl revenue is divided evenly between conference members after subtracting expense allotments and ticket reimbursements. For this season, the Sun Bowl expense allotment is $1.326 million, the Pinstripe Bowl is $1.22 million and all other bowls are $1.167 million.
Participating institutions are responsible for 50% of the bowl game’s ticket allotment but can retain 50% of any additional revenue generated from ticket sales above the first 50% threshold.
There’s also a special provision for the Detroit Bowl: “Should the participating team in the Detroit Bowl sell less than $100,000 in tickets (inclusive of taxes and fees), any difference between the $100,000 and actual tickets sold shall be owed to the Conference as part of bowl settlement and will then be included in bowl payout as additional bowl revenue.”
As a partial member, Notre Dame only receives a bowl share in years when it plays in an ACC-contracted bowl game, not including the Orange Bowl, so it will not receive a share this year.
In the SEC, participating institutions retain an amount that’s awarded on a sliding scale that’s dependent on the payout of each bowl. For bowls with receipts less than $1.5 million, the participating institution retains $1.05 million. For bowls with receipts $1.5 million to $3.99 million, the participating institution retains $1.325 million. Bowls with receipts of $4.0 million to $5.99 million, the participating institution retains $1.525 million. All participants also receive a travel allowance, as determined by the SEC Executive Committee.
Remaining monies are divided 15 ways between the 14 member institutions and the conference office, after subtracting the cost of unused tickets up to the conference’s contractual guarantees.
The Big 12 has set amounts to be retained by the institution as a “participation subsidy,” which varies by bowl game. For the Valero Alamo, Camping World, Texas, Auto Zone Liberty and Cactus Bowls, the participating institution is awarded $1 million, plus a travel subsidy of $370/one-way mile. For the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces and Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowls, or any substitute bowl, the participating institution receives a $680,000 participation subsidy and $370/one-way mile.
Institutions participating in the bowl game are not responsible for the conference’s ticket purchase requirement guaranteed in its contracts. If an institution in a non-CFP game sells more than 50% of the conference’s guarantee, it can retain 50% of the revenue from the sales up to the conference’s guaranteed amount.
Remaining monies are divided pursuant to the conference handbook, which states revenue received by the conference is used first to pay operating and other expenses of the conference, including funding any reserves, before being distributed evenly to all member institutions, subject to a reduction if more than one football game a season is televised on a member institution’s outlet (i.e., Longhorn Network).
So, who comes out ahead financially once all the bowl distributions are made? It’s tough to get a clear answer. Here’s what we do know. …
In the last round of conference distributions made, the ACC’s per member payout averaged $26.6 million, the Big 12 distributed an average of $34.3 million per member, and the SEC paid members an average of $40.9 million. These distributions include television and sponsorship revenue, and other conference-generated revenue above and beyond bowl receipts.
Because Notre Dame is a private university and not subject to open records requests, we don’t have a complete picture of its finances. We know its NBC contract averages $15 million per year. It also receives a payout from the ACC as a partial member, the last reported amount being $5.8 million. And oddly enough, Notre Dame would make more if it was selected for the Orange Bowl in a year when that game isn’t playing host to the semifinals, with a $13.75 million payout.
Add in the CFP money for meeting the APR standards and other revenue it generates independently that is typically handled by a conference for its members, and Notre Dame and an educated guess would have it on par with ACC members.
What does seem clear is that the scales have not tipped to a point where Notre Dame needs a conference. This year, in particular, you’d imagine the Fighting Irish are quite pleased with how things have unfolded and hoping to capitalize on their title run with other revenue opportunities.
This piece originally appeared on Forbes.com on December 4, 2018