Marshall pulls profit on Boca Raton Bowl


HUNTINGTON — Besides the obvious exposure and a victory that closed Marshall’s most successful football season in years last December, the Boca Raton Bowl brought something else to the Herd.

With a triumph over Northern Illinois for the fourth straight bowl since Marshall joined Conference USA, the Herd also turned a profit as well as getting a win.

The bottom line on the inaugural Boca Bowl for the C-USA champion Herd was a net of $18,103.83. To go with the four bowl wins since the Herd moved to C-USA — and the four with alumnus Mike Hamrick as athletic director — Marshall has showed a combined profit on the postseason trips of $200,708.

“We went to a great location, and our players really enjoyed the experience as well as getting a big victory over another (Mid-American) conference champion,” Hamrick said. “The student-athlete experience is important, but at the same time while having a positive experience for our players and coaches, it’s important to manage expenses.

“It was a win-win situation for us again.”

The $18,104 (rounded off) profit in Boca couldn’t match the previous year’s $61,400 profit following the Military Bowl, primarily because the Herd didn’t sell as many tickets due to the distance of fan travel to south Florida rather than Annapolis, Md., site of the Military Bowl.

Herd expenses were higher as well, because the team used charter aircraft for the trip to Boca, while the Military was a bus trip of approximately 400 miles. And the Herd’s assigned headquarters hotel, the historic and prestigious Boca Raton Resort, was more pricey than the Military bowl hotel headquarters in Washington, D.C.

David Steele, Marshall’s associate AD for finance and administration, said the Conference USA financial plan for bowl teams helps league members prosper. However, it is up to each institution to manage its own budget while traveling to and from and at the bowl site.

Marshall’s profit of $18,104 came after all of the school’s expenses, including coaches’ bowl bonuses ($138,452). It also includes expenses for bowl travel and housing for 233 members of the Marching Thunder band and staff, and 21 MU cheerleaders and coaches.

The Herd’s previous bowl profits in the C-USA era were $54,477 for the 2011 Beef `O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., and $66,727 from the Little Caesar’s Bowl in Detroit in 2009.

“The 18,000 profit helps our overall budget picture,” Steele said. “While season ticket sales and contributions to the Big Green are most crucial to us, every dollar helps. The $18,000 will fill a revenue shortfall or cover an unexpected expense during the budget year. Our needs are great to be competitive in all sports and we must maximize every opportunity financially”.

C-USA has a bowl ticket formula that allows a school to retain the first $100,000 in revenue on tickets sold by the school, then 50 percent of the remainder of school sales.

Because of the distance to Boca, the Herd didn’t reach the $100,000 threshold, but did get to keep $86,945 on the MU sale of 2,189 tickets.

Boca Bowl officials estimated that with local sales to Herd supporters — and Marshall football under Coach Doc Holliday has a significant player presence in Florida — Marshall had about 4,500-5,000 fans at the Dec. 23 game.

For the fan-drivable Military Bowl, Marshall sold 2,773 tickets, for $183,925 — and therefore retained $141,962.50.

“The Conference USA formula allows teams to cover reasonable expenses and also provides an incentive to schools to sell tickets, because of the amount of revenue that institution gets to keep,” Steele said.

Marshall’s bowl allowance from C-USA (travel, per diem, also based upon distance traveled) was $625,161.71. With the $86,945 in ticket revenue, the Herd received $712,106.71. Steele said Marshall’s expenses for the five-day, four-night bowl trip totaled $694,002.88.

Steele said the C-USA bowl allowance included what the conference labels a $150,000 “miscellaneous stipend.” The Herd received $25,000 more than it did for the Military Bowl, because the league champ gets $150,000.

The C-USA formula also provides for an official travel party of 200, with $10,000 per day for meals and per diem, 115 hotel rooms for four nights, air charter and bowl-site bus travel for the team and bus travel from Huntington to Boca Raton for the band.

Steele said other bowl-related expenses that “some people might overlook” include $33,753 for players pre-bowl housing and meals between the end of the fall semester and the departure for Boca Raton and a $30-per-day allowance for players at the bowl site, an expenditure permitted under NCAA rules. For 98 Herd players, that total was $14,700.

The $18,104 profit won’t be Marshall’s only revenue from the Boca Bowl. Conference USA bowl distribution figures won’t be available until the end of the fiscal year, but the league’s five bowl teams (Marshall, Louisiana Tech, Western Kentucky, UTEP and Rice) will receive a larger stipend than the eight other schools.

Marshall also received the exposure of a national telecast on ESPN — the only football aired in the early Tuesday night time slot — in a win that lifted Holliday’s team to a final ranking (Nos. 22/23) in the polls.

The Boca Raton Bowl telecast rating was 1.4, which translates to 2.25 million viewers.

Steele said the Boca Bowl was another positive experience for the Herd in multiple ways.

“Since we’ve been a member of Conference USA, we’ve always been able to manage expenses and sell enough tickets based on their formulas to generate some profit,” the Herd associate AD said. “The idea has always been be reasonable in our expenditures and make money if possible, but the main thing is to make sure the student-athlete experience is good.

“You have to balance making a profit and having the best possible experience for the athletes, and we do that. What that means is we can’t just pack up the whole athletic department and go to the bowl.

“Only those with working functions travel staff-wise. We want to make sure we spend on our student-athletes. That’s why it’s so critical we sell tickets. We want to make sure our student-athletes have a good experience, and at the same time manage expenses to help us where the revenue is needed.”

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