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Bowl Finances: Oklahoma State’s Participation in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

In recent years, there has been much focus upon the amount of money athletic departments whose football teams participate in bowl games must shell out for items like unsold tickets and travel for a large group of people to the respective bowl game.  Investigations have been completed at various levels to determine just how much profit an athletic department can turn if it is required to pay a big-ticket price just to participate in a bowl game.

Last year, the bowl game which arguably drew the most scrutiny as a result of the amount of money an athletic department was required to spend for its team to participate in the game, was the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  In 2011, UConn took on Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.  Given that Storrs, Connecticut is located thousands of miles away from Tempe, Arizona, UConn incurred extensive travel expenses.  Additionally, UConn was required to sell 17,500 tickets for the event.  Six days before the bowl game, it had only sold 4,600.  Reports indicated that the school would incur the cost of the unsold tickets.

This year, Oklahoma State University is taking on Stanford in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  BusinessofCollegeSports.com reached out to both schools to learn more about the bowl’s financial requirements of each athletic program.  Because Stanford is a private university, it declined to participate, citing open records request laws.

However, Oklahoma State provided information which gives great insight into the financial responsibilities of athletic departments participating in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Oklahoma State was required to purchase and/or sell 17,500 tickets for the game.  The price of these tickets ranged from $105.00 to $255.00.  Thus, the amount of tickets Oklahoma State was required to sell for the Fiesta Bowl ranged in amount from $1,837,500.00 to $4,462,500.00.

Given the high price of tickets and the associated allotment of tickets Oklahoma State was required to purchase and/or sell, there is arguably need for concern over whether the school would be required to purchase those tickets it was unable to sell.  According to Jason Lewis, Oklahoma State’s Associate Athletic Director for Business and Finance, Oklahoma State’s athletic department will not incur the cost of unsold tickets.  Although Lewis did not provide information in this regard, it is likely that the Big 12 conference will incur the cost of the unsold tickets which Oklahoma State was responsible for.

Lewis indicate that Oklahoma State did not have a budget set aside for bowl travel.  At the time of the interview, it was too early to estimate how much money Oklahoma State planned to spend on travel to the Fiesta Bowl, as well as how many individual’s travel the athletic department would pay for to the Fiesta Bowl.

However, Lewis did note that the Big 12 Conference provided Oklahoma State with a travel allotment for the Fiesta Bowl.  The Big 12 Conference gave Oklahoma State $1.8 million for travel purposes to the Fiesta Bowl.

The information provided by Lewis shines a new light on bowl finances.  Last year, after hearing that UConn was required to purchase 17,500 tickets and was only able to sell around 5,000 of those tickets, many were quick to cry foul.  However, after learning that the Big 12 conference has provided Oklahoma State with a significant amount of money for travel expenses and that the Big 12 Conference will likely incur the cost of unsold tickets, the burden of participating in bowl games on athletic departments appears to be less harsh than commonly reported.

BusinessofCollegeSports.com would like to thank Jason Lewis for his help with this piece.

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