Bottom line is, BC football program a success

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / December 18, 2008
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Some of the statistics are as good as any team in college football. Nine consecutive bowl games, eight straight bowl victories, an average of 8.8 wins over the last 10 years, an average of 9.6 victories over the last five seasons, appearances in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game the last two seasons, 22 players drafted by the NFL in the last 10 years, including seven in the first round.

So, all appears well for the Boston College football program, which has gone from mediocrity to a consistent top-20 contender, first under Tom O'Brien, and for the last two seasons under Jeff Jagodzinski.

And the bowl beat will continue Dec. 31 in Nashville, when the 9-4 Eagles meet Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl.

But just how good is life at this level for BC football? Take a look at the Eagles' recent bowl r??sum??:

2000 - Aloha Bowl; 2001 - Music City Bowl; 2002 - Motor City Bowl; 2003 - San Francisco Bowl; 2004 - Continental Tire Bowl; 2005 - MPC Computers Bowl; 2006 - Meineke Car Care Bowl; 2007 - Champs Sports Bowl.

Check the dates and cities. All in December in places such as Nashville, Detroit, San Francisco, Charlotte, Honolulu, Boise, and Orlando. No BCS games. No major New Year's Day bowls.

But the key for BC athletics - and not just football - is the bottom line, revenue. And in this area, BC has definitely moved to a new, more exclusive neighborhood.

In its last year in the Big East in 2004, the Eagles' athletic revenue was a little more than $6.5 million. This season, as a member of the ACC, they will earn nearly $11 million, regardless of whether they participated in a bowl game.

"We share everything equally in the ACC," said athletic director Gene DeFilippo of the revenue-sharing plan that gives basically the same amount to the 10 bowl teams as it will to the two schools (Duke, Virginia) that did not qualify for bowl games. "I really like that. It helps you plan the budget for the year. If you don't share equally, you never know what your revenue is going to be. It keeps everybody healthy. It's a fair thing to do budget-wise."

All BCS conferences have some form of revenue sharing, but the ACC takes in more revenue than the Big East because of its television contract and more bowl tie-ins.

Virginia Tech will play in the Orange Bowl, which will hand a check of $17 million to the ACC. And Maryland will play in the Humanitarian Bowl, which will pay the ACC $750,000. But the payouts to each ACC school will be basically the same. The total conference bowl revenue of slightly more than $30 million will be divided by 12.

It is an era of college football in which it is not whether you win or lose that counts, but whether you are a member of one of the six BCS conferences, which share athletic revenues among all members.

So, while the Eagles' 30-12 loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC title game was painful to the players, BC didn't take a hit financially. In fact, BC may be better off financially.

"We're given an allowance [for travel from the ACC] of a little more than $1 million to go to a bowl game," said Eric Ziady, BC's associate AD of business operations. "If you go to a BCS bowl, the ACC gives you about $600,000 more because of the travel costs, the length of the stay, and lots of other things factor in."

BC's only real obligation is in ticket sales. For the Music City Bowl, BC's ticket allotment is 10,000. DeFilippo estimates the Eagles will only use about 2,000. The rest are sent back, with BC only partially responsible for the cost.

"The ACC helps you if you don't sell all your tickets," said Ziady. "Last year [at the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando], we were on the hook for 12,000." BC sold approximately 5,000.

At best, going to a bowl game seems to be a break-even proposition. "Of our last nine bowl games, we've made money about five or six times," said DeFilippo.

For the players, it's not about the money. It's about having a good time in a quality bowl against a good opponent. It also includes $500 worth of gifts for each player from the bowl, and $350 in gifts provided by the school. This year, BC players will get headphones, MP3 players, watches, jackets, caps and a backpack from the Music City Bowl. "We haven't decided what to give the players yet," said DeFilippo. "We usually let the captains talk to the team and take a vote."

Getting to the game is another project. With post-Christmas bowls, the NCAA sets up two plans. BC will have one charter from Boston to Nashville, which will accommodate coaches, players, and athletic officials, and some members of their families. But with the players scattered for Christmas, the NCAA allows schools to pay for a one-way plane ticket from a player's home to the bowl site, or a car stipend at 40 cents per mile, which is generally calculated from the campus to the bowl site, if that is the greatest amount.

"We're going to have another charter for other athletic officials and friends and we will even sell some tickets," said Ziady. "That will leave on Dec. 29. We will have two charters fly back on Jan. 1."

DeFilippo sees this game as he does all postseason games. "When you go to a bowl game, it is a reward for the players," he said. "The games are on national television, so that helps your exposure and with name recognition. It helps recruiting. We have had some terrific bowls. We had a phenomenal time in Orlando last year. The weather was terrific."

And it also helps in fund-raising. "It's a chance to get the alumni together and meet with some donors," said DeFilippo. "We will have a dinner for them the night before the game."

As for fan support - a negative for BC in the minds of some bowl officials - DeFilippo said it is also a numbers game. "It's not like our fans aren't good fans," he said "We have 145,000 alums. Last year, we played Michigan State, which had 360,000 alums and two to three times the number of students. We don't have bad fans, we just don't have as many."

And some of them will make the journey to Nashville next week to see BC play in a game that doesn't mean a lot in the grand scheme of a 34-game bowl season. But in terms of overall dollars and cents, BC is doing just fine.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at

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