No windfall attached to title game

Big Ten, other conferences share revenues from championship games

Updated: October 24, 2012, 6:04 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When teams make conference championship games for the potential of winning league titles and going to Bowl Championship Series games, there is prestige involved.

There isn't, however, much of a financial gain in playing an extra game.

"It wasn't a financial windfall of any type," said Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne, whose Huskers teams played in six Big 12 title games. "So we played in that game several times and it didn't result in a lot of money."

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio and Bret Bielema
AP Photo/Michael ConroyThe first Big Ten championship game feature Mark Dantonio's Spartans and Bret Bielema's Badgers.
If Michigan beats Nebraska on Saturday night, it could open up a two-game lead on the rest of the Legends Division with four games to play, putting the Wolverines in good position to reach their first Big Ten championship game in the second year of the game's existence.

While there is a prestige factor in reaching the conference championship game with a berth, in the Big Ten's case, the Rose Bowl on the line, the dollars and cents of it all matter little.

The Big Ten, like the SEC and ACC, and Big 12 when it had a conference title game, shares the revenue of all monies from the game. So if you're Michigan or Michigan State, Alabama or Auburn, Virginia or Virginia Tech, you see the same amount of money from the game whether or not you actually made the trip.

"I think it's a fair thing and that's what you're trying to do," said Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver, whose teams have played in five ACC title games. "We have an equal opportunity to share in the conference, the ACC, among our member institutions. We all feel that is a very fair way to do business.

"The last two years we were in the championship game. This year we might not be in it. Someone else will be in it. But the revenues will go to the conference and will be distributed at the end of the fiscal year."

Weaver wasn't sure how much money his school received from the game, but it was one item on a spreadsheet of 20 when the schools received their lump sum from the conference.

The SEC cleared $15.3 million after expenses on last season's title game, SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom said. Divided among the then-12 school league, each institution received approximately $1.275 million from the game. Osborne said when Nebraska was in the Big 12, it received somewhere between $500,000 and $700,000 in revenue share from the game.

Big Ten deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia said the conference's first championship game generated between $4-5 million, which was then split equally amongst its membership. The television deal for the game is not included in this number, but rather the television revenues the league gives out at the end of each fiscal year.

The one addition for schools playing in the games is that their expenses are paid for. The Big Ten gives a $250,000 stipend to cover costs, Traviolia said. The ACC and SEC reimburse expenses to the teams participating.

"That's identical to our philosophy as we look to the bowl season as well," Traviolia said. "The teams that participate, they get a cut off the top to pay for their expenses because those are real and hard costs for playing in the game that they incur. So they certainly would be no worse off."

The one area where schools can generate some extra money is in the sale of merchandise on their campuses. Merchandise at the host city and in the stadium goes into the conference total for the revenue share. But if a school creates hats or shirts on its own, in some cases they keep the money or split it with the conference, depending on the merchandising deal.

That said, the money that earns is usually not much in the grand scheme.

"That is such a small item," Weaver said.

So when teams play in the first week of December, there will be a lot on the line -- exposure, prestige, chances for big-time January games. But extra money won't be on that list.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter