Bowl season is a special time of the year. It caps off every football season with fun matchups that fans rarely get to see and it allows those teams that have done well a chance to prove they’re the nation’s best. Bowl games are ingrained into the culture and tradition of collegiate football, but the expenses to send teams to these games recently has been anything but traditional.
The Ducks’ 45-38 Rose Bowl win over the Wisconsin Badgers was a crowning moment in Oregon football. It was a victory that ended a 95-year drought. It cost $1,599,307 to send 515 people — including team, staff, band, cheerleaders and athletic officials — to southern California in order to obtain that win, well within the athletic department’s $1,942,000 allowance.
“For many people, their first interaction with the University of Oregon is from hearing about our football team,” said athletic department spokesperson Craig Pintens. “It’s important we continually perform at our highest level, which culminated this year in a victory at the Rose Bowl.”
This nearly $1.6 million is seen as about average for a large football program to spend on a bowl appearance. For example, a year ago Iowa State spent $1,286,477 on its 27-13 loss to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Spending millions on a simple trip to play a football game seems strange, but to these schools it’s only a fraction of what they reap.
The numbers for the Ducks’ trip to Pasadena, Calif., may look average, but broken down the equation is much more complex.
The athletic department spent $220,107 on transportation for the team and staff (212 people), but they spent $123,851 on transportation for the official party (56 people) and only $43,480 for the band and cheerleaders (247 people). The team and staff spent nine days traveling and the other two groups only spent seven, but the expenses don’t equate between the groups.
The official party consists of athletic department officials, representatives of the University’s third-party rights holder IMG, and 6 students whose names were redacted from the list. It also includes University administrators such as Lorraine Davis, who has a clause in her contract that outlines all-expenses-paid trips to games like these for her and her family.
“The numbers are difficult to compare,” Pintens said. “The primary difference is student-athletes are two per room and staff in some instances are one per room.”
Despite the bunking situation, there are still great disparities in the costs between the groups. Economics professor Bill Harbaugh said that expenses like these may be a reason that the athletic department will not commit to an annual financial contribution to the academic side, a deal agreed upon years ago between former athletic director Bill Moos and former University President Dave Frohnmayer.
“The faculty and students on the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee have spent the past year trying to get a straight answer from athletic director Rob Mullens on why he can’t afford to keep this promise, and now we know he blew the money on all-expenses-paid trips to the Rose Bowl,” Harbaugh said. “If a Duck football player got benefits like these the NCAA infractions committee would ban them faster than the Black Mamba’s kick-off return.”
ASUO President Ben Eckstein and Vice President Katie Taylor were both part of the official party that received all-expenses-paid trips to see the Ducks play. Their names were among those redacted under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Eckstein and Taylor — selected through a student outreach program — spent three days in California, attending events, helping with a service project and talking with prospective students about the University. Despite being part of the 56-person official party, Eckstein said that he recognizes there is a problem with how much is being spent in certain areas.
“The NCAA cartel and a variety of other factors lead to an environment where students are consistently exploited,” Eckstein said. “The difference in cost suggests that we do not prioritize the student-athletes and participants who are the core of our athletic and academic success.”