Ohio University is reporting that it broke even financially on its varsity football team's December trip to the Independence Bowl in Louisiana.
Bookkeeping has something to do with this claim, however, as the university's athletics department a few years ago created a "Post Season Opportunity Fund" designated to help cover bowl expenses.
For the Independence Bowl, that fund provided $78,569 toward covering the $502,445 in expenses connected to the game and the trip to Shreveport.
OU released details on the bowl expenses and revenues last week, broken down by expenditures on campus – much of which actually went to OU entities such as university housing, printing and transportation services – and expenditures at the bowl site.
The biggest single expense was chartered air transportation to Shreveport, which cost $205,065. Lodging there cost another $84,019, and meals there cost $51,398.
Other expenses included $20,100 for bowl rings (OU won the game), and $25,618 in per diem expenses.
Most of the cost of the trip was paid for by revenues from the Mid-America Conference, which put in $400,000 worth of bowl receipts. OU also got $23,876 worth of ticket sale proceeds.
This left $78,569 for OU to cover, which amount came out of the Post Season Opportunity Fund, allowing the university to show the bowl trip as a wash financially on its books.
The money in the fund, however, comes out of the OU Athletics Department's regular budget, which means that strictly speaking the $78,569 was not "revenue," but an earmarked expenditure.
Along with the bowl spending figures, OU put out a news release touting the benefits of post-season play.
In the release Tom Symonds, OU assistant athletic director for media relations, stated that it's common "for most schools that attend bowls to have more expenses than revenues received." For OU, however, he adds, the Independence Bowl was "a break-even situation" in terms of spending versus revenues. He stressed that OU made "a detailed and planned cost-containment effort" to try to minimize travel expenses.
In the release, Symonds also recited common arguments in favor of attending bowl games.
These include the claim that such play will "generate millions of dollars in exposure" for OU through coverage on ESPN. During the ESPN coverage, the release notes, OU was able to run, at no cost, a commercial for the university.
Having a team compete in a nationally televised bowl game, Symonds maintains, also "enhances the image of Ohio University and Bobcat athletics throughout the country," exposure that "can benefit enrollment, fundraising, campus life and school pride to students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends."
While in Louisiana, the release added, OU student athletes took part in volunteer service projects, such as visiting patients at the Louisiana State University Children's Hospital.
Going to a bowl game is also its own justification, the release suggests: "It is the reason why student-athletes compete – to get post-season play." In addition, the trip "provides a valuable experience for the student-athletes to visit another region of the country, take in the culture and grow personally."
Besides potentially attracting more students in general, the release contends, a bowl appearance can help recruit athletes to come to OU, "which fosters future winning teams."