LSU to lose money on Chick-fil-A Bowl

A 25-24 defeat at the hands of Clemson on New Year’s Eve wasn’t LSU’s only loss from its appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Because fans fell far short of selling out LSU’s allotment of 16,000 tickets to the Dec. 31 game, the athletic department is currently facing an estimated $154,500 deficit from the Tigers’ trip to Atlanta.

The financial shortfall from the bowl game certainly isn’t about to cripple LSU’s athletic department, whose budget will likely run to about $98 million by the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Mark Ewing, LSU’s senior associate athletic director for business, said the school’s share of bowl revenue from the SEC that’s still outstanding will eventually make up most of that deficit.

However, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said the school did try to rein in expenses on the trip as much as possible, knowing there would likely be a shortfall.

“It’s a significant amount of money,” Alleva said. “The biggest factor is the amount of guaranteed tickets you have to buy and the fact that we didn’t sell them all. That’s really the bottom line this year.”

LSU sold about 10,500 of its 16,000 ticket allotment for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which the school was contractually bound to purchase before then trying to resell tickets to fans.

A Southeastern Conference insurance policy reimbursed LSU for the cost of about 4,000 tickets, but the school still had to pay for $176,300 in unsold tickets.

The SEC allocated $1,230,000 to LSU for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but Ewing said the school spent a total of $1,384,500 on unsold tickets and such expenses as hotel rooms and meals for the team and LSU’s band.

The $1.23 million comes from the SEC team’s share of $3.3 million guaranteed by the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Ewing said. The rest of the money, about $2.1 million, is divided into 15 shares between LSU, the other 13 SEC member schools and the conference office.

That one-fifteenth share — about $140,000 — will come back to LSU at the end of the fiscal year, Ewing said. In all, LSU’s net loss for the Chick-fil-A Bowl should drop to about $15,000 once all the books are balanced.

By comparison, even if LSU had sold all of its 16,000 Chick-fil-A Bowl tickets, Ewing estimates the school would have turned a profit of only $21,800 before that one-fifteenth share reimbursement.

If LSU had gone to another bowl, say the Cotton in Arlington, Texas, the school would likely have turned a profit.

LSU season-ticket holders pre-ordered more than 16,500 Cotton Bowl tickets, outstripping the allotment of 12,500 that the school would have received from that game.

“If we had gone to the Cotton Bowl or one of those Florida bowls,” Alleva said, “I think we would have sold out.”

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said at the BCS Championship Game that future bowl contracts are likely to include smaller ticket allotments that schools are required to purchase, an idea Alleva endorsed.

“I think when the SEC puts out (requests for proposals) to bowls in the future, part of those RFPs need to be with much-reduced guarantees for the tickets you have to buy,” Alleva said.