Florida GC AD sweating costs

Updated: March 29, 2013, 3:58 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

Florida Gulf Coast's trip to the Sweet 16 has been great for the school, but its athletic director is hoping the cost to travel to the games won't turn out to be a money loser.

"I thought we'd lose $5,000 to $10,000 on the first two rounds," FGCU athletic director Ken Kavanagh said. "But we broke even. Hopefully, we can do it again."

Kavanagh said the NCAA pays for travel on its team charter up to 75 people, but those people can only include essential members of the team travel party, cheerleaders, a mascot and the band. The school did have to pay for some passengers, including spouses and the children of some coaches, at a rate of $836 per round trip to and from Philadelphia, where the team beat Georgetown and San Diego State. The team also had to pay for the transportation to and from the airport. The NCAA will only pay that, Kavanaugh said, if the tournament site or the distance from the school to the airport is more than 25 miles away.

I thought we'd lose $5,000 to $10,000 on the first two rounds. But we broke even. Hopefully, we can do it again.

-- Florida Gulf Coast AD Ken Kavanagh

FGCU also threw a low-key party in Philadelphia for the team, the boosters and the trustees, which Kavanagh said was worth doing. The athletic department will throw another party on Thursday night in Arlington, Texas, site of the team's game versus Florida on Friday night.

"We're not going to get anywhere if we try to nickel-and-dime our way around," he said. "It's nice for the people who have been there for us all along and it's also good for the players, who normally would just be in their rooms."

NCAA tournament teams don't normally come out ahead in their travel expenses despite Turner and CBS paying an average of $771 million a year for the television rights.

Baylor's associate athletic director of communications, David Kaye, said the school lost money on travel costs alone when accounting for the school's trip to the Elite Eight last year.

Kentucky was given a total travel stipend of $209,000 in its run to the national title last season. But with a bigger travel party and paying for tickets, the school spent "about twice that," senior associate athletic director Jason Schlafer said. Kentucky made that up in merchandise sales alone, bringing in $1.2 million in gross championship gear royalties, an all-time basketball title record.

A source close to the George Mason athletic department told ESPN.com that the school lost hundreds of thousands of dollars that were not reimbursed during its 2006 run to the Final Four. One of the culprits: The school still had to pay for hotel rooms even though it played its Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Washington D.C., just 20 miles from the school. However, it was a good trade off as George Mason professor concluded that the team's performance in the tournament that year was worth more than $677 million in free publicity to the school.

Each game a school plays, up until the final, is worth roughly $1.47 million to the conference, which is paid out over the next six years. Some of the smaller conferences reward the school making the tournament with a disproportionate share, but Kavanagh said the FGCU Eagles will split their earnings -- so far $4.41 million -- equally with the teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The conference has provided a $15,000 subsidy to Florida Gulf Coast for each game it plays to help bridge the financial gap.

The school also made up some of the costs by having some people, who were not on the team, sleeping three to four in a room. The NCAA gives a per diem stipend of $185 per eligible travel member and the costs for the hotel in Philadelphia came out to $200 a room per night.

"People didn't spend all their meal money," Kavanagh said. "Some of us, like myself and Coach Enfield, didn't take the stipend at all."

NCAA tournament teams don't normally come out ahead in their travel expenses despite Turner and CBS paying an average of $771 million a year for the television rights.

Kavanagh also would not discuss the current state of contract negotiations with Enfield, other than to say he has been in constant dialogue in recent weeks. Enfield's contract, which has three years left on the deal, pays him $157,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the school has wasted no time trying to cash in locally on the national attention.

This week, FGCU sent out an email to its fans asking them to donate $16, $160 or $1,600 to athletic department in recognition of the team's run to the Sweet 16.

"We still need a lot more resources," Kavanagh said. "We have to try to make up for the fact that our oldest alum is 37 years old."

After winning the Atlantic Sun tournament, the school started thinking about tickets for next year even though it had only sold out about half of its Alico Arena, which has a capacity of 4,500. New inventory was unveiled, including 30 courtside seats, with the school asking for a minimum $5,000 donation for each of the 10 seats closest to center court.

Even though the school started selling season tickets for next year, they recently offered a $50 deposit option, which would allow someone to get on the list should they not want to make the full commitment now. The hope is to get more people thinking about next season now, especially as the volume of older fans heading north for the spring and summer increases.

Kavanagh said the athletic department received 23 deposits at Monday's pep rally alone.

"We could sell out quickly," Kavanagh said. "We'll allow people who had seats last year to come back in their same seats until June 30, but after that, there will be a line to get in."

Another source of revenue could be the team's banquet, which was scheduled for this upcoming Tuesday, but has been pushed back due to the tournament run.

FGCU will eventually see some nice return from merchandise royalties. Through Tuesday, the school said it had sold $148,904 worth of Eagles gear in March compared to a little more than $20,107 during the same period of time last year.

"I'd go to the local Dick's Sporting Goods and see Florida, Florida State and Miami gear and I wouldn't see FGCU and we're the local team," Kavanagh said. "Now these stores are dying to get our logo on the shelves."

Kavanagh says he has no doubt that the university, which opened for classes in 1997, will reap tremendous benefits from its tournament run. "I'm sure we're going to see the 'Flutie Effect,' where the applications in and out of state are going to skyrocket," he said.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

ALSO SEE