Though the payouts at the nine SEC-affiliated bowl games vary widely, the participating teams receive largely concrete payments depending on what category its game falls under before the rest is divvied throughout the conference.
Category 1: Payouts of $1.5 million or less
n Participating institution receives $925,000
Bowls: BBVA Compass Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.), Liberty Bowl (Memphis)
Category 2: Payouts between $1.5 million and $3.99 million
n Participating institution receives $1.125 million
Bowls: Music City Bowl (Nashville), Chick-fil-A Bowl (Atlanta), Outback Bowl (Tampa, Fla.), Cotton Bowl (Dallas), Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Category 3: Payouts between $4 million and $6 million
n Participating institutions receive $1.325 million
Bowls: Capital One Bowl (Orlando)
Category 4: Payouts over $6 million
n Participating institutions receive $1.825 million ($1.925 million for national championship game)
Bowls: BCS bowls
Tennessee has been shrewd at managing its bowl finances over the past few years, often making a small amount of money or coming close to breaking even before it receives its cut of the SEC's large pool of bowl money.
Jan, 2, 2004 Peach Bowl
Jan. 1, 2005 Cotton Bowl
Jan. 1, 2007 Outback Bowl
Jan. 1, 2008 Outback Bowl
*UT received $196,950 from the SEC's Bowl Revenue Protection Insurance plan for unsold tickets.
Jan. 1, 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl
Dec. 30, 2010 Music City Bowl
Projected revenues: $1,161,000.00
Projected expenses: To be determined
Source: University of Tennessee athletic department
Tennessee may have lost a bit of notoriety when it was passed up by the New Year's Day Gator Bowl in favor of Mississippi State, but it didn't lose any potential earnings by dropping one spot to the Music City Bowl.
Even though the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., pays out $2.2 million to its SEC participant and the Music City Bowl in Nashville offers $2.15 million, the Vols would have received the same lump sum of $1.125 million, regardless.
Really, the Vols could have qualified for the Outback Bowl or Chick-fil-A Bowl - both of which make their selections before the Gator Bowl and Music City Bowl - and they still would have received the same payout from the SEC, according to the league's bowl revenue distribution formula.
The SEC breaks down the 10 potential bowl games it affiliates itself with into four categories, each of which provides the participant with a set lump sum before it divides the rest 13 ways - one for each of the 12 SEC teams, including itself, and one to the league office.
For bowls that pay out $1.5 million or less, the SEC participant retains $925,000. Though some figures are yet to be determined, the only bowls that fall into this category are the BBVA Compass Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.) and the Memphis-based Liberty Bowl.
The second category, which comprises bowls that pay between $1.5 million and $3.99 million, includes half of the SEC-affiliated bowls.
SEC participants in the Music City Bowl (UT), Gator Bowl (Mississippi State), Outback Bowl (Florida), Chick-fil-A Bowl (South Carolina) and Cotton Bowl (LSU) will receive the same $1.125 million check even though their respective payouts vary by as much as $1 million.
The Capital One Bowl, which will pit Alabama against Michigan State this year, is in its own category. Its payout has typically hovered around $4.25 million over the past few years, making it one of the top-paying non-BCS bowls in the country, but its SEC participant receives just $1.325 million before the rest is divided among the conference.
Arkansas will receive $1.825 million off the top of a Sugar Bowl payment that will clear $6 million. Auburn, because it advanced to the national championship, will haul in $1.925 million before the rest of college football's biggest payout is distributed to the rest of its colleagues.
After the SEC office took its cut, the grand total from the 10 bowls last year amounted to close to $26.5 million, SEC Associate Commissioner Charles Bloom said.
Divide that 12 ways, and each school received close to $2.21 million after receiving its original payout - if it qualified for the postseason.
That figure typically represents the profit SEC schools net for making a postseason bowl game.
Before that point, a school such as UT is usually hoping just to break even.
Barring any unforeseen costs, which have certainly arisen in the recent past, that's what UT is projecting for this year's trip, said Bill Myers, UT's senior associate athletic director and chief financial officer.
"I feel good about that," Myers said. "I can't tell you what I think we'll get but I feel pretty good that it will come in under that number."
Since the 2004 trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Vols have yet to lose money at the point when they receive their original payout and the 1/13th cut from that specific bowl, according to financial documents provided to the News Sentinel.
The closest UT came to spending more than it earned from the bowl itself were its back-to-back trips to the Outback Bowl in 2007 and 2008. Without the $111,784.62 it earned from its 1/13th cut, UT would have lost close to $50,000 in its 2007 trip to Tampa.
After the Vols didn't sell out their ticket allotment for the 2008 Outback Bowl, they would have lost more than $225,000 if not for the $196,950 it received from the SEC's Bowl Revenue Protection Insurance plan.
According to league bylaws, "the cost of unused tickets up to 3,000 tickets for games with a ticket guarantee under 15,000 tickets, and up to 4,000 tickets for games with a ticket guarantee of 15,000 tickets or above, shall be deducted prior to conference distribution."
The Vols have sold out their allotment with ease in their past two bowl trips, as the majority of the 16,000 tickets they were given for this year's Music City Bowl were reserved long before they were officially paired with North Carolina for the Dec. 30 game (TV: ESPN, 6:30 p.m.).
"It really helps when you sell all the tickets," Myers said.
UT's close proximity to Nashville also makes this year's bowl trip easier to budget, Myers said.
For the Outback Bowl trips, UT flew the team and "other working party members that needed to be there" on one plane and then flew the "official party," which included high-ranking administration members and other staff, a few days later on a second flight.
For this year's trip to Nashville, UT will offer its staff members $.40 a mile and pay players the greater of either the cost of a one-way flight from their hometown to Nashville or one-way mileage from the same locations.
Myers estimated players will receive between $350 and $500 in travel allowance.
"There are substantial travel savings for not having to fly," Myers said.
The SEC pays its teams $200 per mile it travels one way to its bowl site, which will give UT another $36,000 to work with, Myers said.
"Our payment will be $1.161 million roughly," Myers said. "Our goal is to spend less than that."
UT will spend around $26,000 a night and between $100,000 and $130,000 total to lodge the team at the official Music City Bowl hotel, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Myers said. An additional $30,000 or so will be spent to house the marching band at the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt.
Last year's hotel bill in Atlanta was around $415,000 and the previous year's in Tampa was close to $420,000, Myers said.
On the "low end," Myers estimated that UT will spend between $50,000 and $60,000 to feed the team while it's in Nashville from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30.
UT will oblige the NCAA's option to provide team members with a bowl gift that is valued at no more than $350 per person to go along with the $500 gift bundle players will receive from the Music City Bowl, Myers said.
Unforeseen costs can and have popped up.
On one of the Outback Bowl trips, the Vols held their practices at the University of Tampa.
Upon arriving for the first on-site practice, UT officials were surprised to learn it owed $20,000 to rent the facility.
"Costs like that pop up," Myers said.