Tennessee didn’t come away victorious in the final minutes of the Music City Bowl, but the UT athletic department once again came out a financial winner for the Vols’ trip to the postseason.
Barring any lingering mileage claims or other unexpected bills, UT will net close to $280,000 in profit from its trip to the Music City Bowl, according to documents obtained by the News Sentinel through an open-records request.
As of Monday, the UT athletic department devoted $816,221.79 to bowl expenses, the bulk of which went toward the team hotel ($293,028.95) and complimentary tickets ($115,780.00). Aided by the SEC landing two teams in BCS bowls, UT will receive close to $1.1 million in revenue for its short trip to Nashville, UT senior associate athletic director and chief financial officer Bill Myers said.
Though UT has not taken a loss in its previous six bowl trips, the $280,000 profit would be its largest in that time span. Since 2004, UT has gained close to $800,000 from making bowl games.
That’s not exactly the norm in college football, as teams big and small routinely spend more than they earn for the price of exposure bowls provide. Auburn reported a loss of $614,106 for its trip to Glendale, Ariz., for the BCS national championship and Kentucky lost $253,396 to play in the Birmingham-based BBVA Compass Bowl, according to the Birmingham News.
Connecticut and Virginia Tech combined to lose nearly $3.4 million on its trips to BCS bowls earlier in the year, according to various reports.
Myers said UT’s surplus this year will go back into the department’s general fund, which is currently dealing with elevated utility and scholarship costs.
The reasons behind UT’s ability to profit off the short trip were two-fold, Myers said, and both have to do with the location of the game.
Because the game was so close to Knoxville, UT’s official party and working party drove to the bowl site, eliminating the additional expenses that can pile up when most are required to fly. Staff members received $.40 a mile while players were paid the greater of either the cost of a one-way flight from their hometown to Nashville, or one-way mileage from the same locations.
That the game was in Nashville, a major hub for Vols fans, also had a hand in saving UT some money. UT sold through its 16,000 ticket allotment in a hurry, quickly negating any worries that the university would have to absorb those costs.
UT didn’t sell all of its allotment for the 2008 Outback Bowl but was able to come out with a small profit because of the SEC’s ticket insurance policy, which reimburses teams with 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.
The $115,780 devoted to complimentary tickets were for players’ and coaches’ families, along with band members, Myers said.
The $293,029 UT spent on its five-night stay at the Opryland Hotel was lower than previous trips, Myers said. The room rate of $130 a night, which is determined and dictated by the bowl host, was nearly $50 less than some in the past.
UT athletic director Mike Hamilton noted that he was “satisfied” with four of the five criteria in the “Social Events, Hospitality and Hotel” section of his bowl survey and “neutral” about having an “adequate amount of complimentary suites provided for VIP’s of the institution.” In the comments section, Hamilton wrote that it was “nearly impossible” to gain access to the Opryland Hotel property “if you were not traveling with the team on buses.”
“With 1,800 rooms, two football teams and a cheerleader competition going, the hotel was hectic and neither team felt like they were the priority,” Hamilton wrote. “Cheerleaders became the focal point. When it takes nearly 40 minutes to get into or out of the hotel that is too long. This needs to be addressed.”
Hamilton wrote that he was largely “satisfied” or “very satisfied” throughout the five-part bowl survey. He wrote that the bowl did an “excellent job” with the location of tickets for UT fans, as most were positioned on the sidelines. He had no complaints with the amenities of LP Field, where the game was played, or the Vanderbilt practice field.
Hamilton noted that he was “dissatisfied” with the bowl’s ability to communicate its policies, noting that the post-game media setup was “not very well managed.”
“We had (to) communicate our needs and our issues and they were seemingly ignored,” Hamilton wrote. “Media management could be better with this bowl. Other than that, they did a good job.”
Tennessee’s expenses for the Music City Bowl.
Staff travel: $15,140.58
Band flights: $3,281.20
Band per diem - $43,352.51
Band hotel - $19,320.00
Team hotel - $293,028.95
Band bus - $17,100.00
Band meal - $8,999.94
Gray Line bus line - $16,105.00
Bowl media guides - $15,312.90
Player bowl gifts - $42,550.00
General administration - $2,073.99
Supplies - $15,938.96
Knoxville player per diems - $35,110.40
Knoxville player meals - $37,089.86
Practice officials - $945.00
Complimentary tickets - $115,780.00
Player travel allowances - $53,272.00
Nashville per diem - $81,820.50
Tennessee’s revenues: approximately $1.1 million