With Saturday’s win over Cincinnati, Memphis clinched a berth in this season’s New Year’s Six. They’ll likely find themselves in the Cotton Bowl.
This is a great showcase opportunity for the program. They’ll get to show fans and recruits what their program is about. In short, a NY6 bowl is awesome free advertising for the university, the city, and the football program.
Still, as important is the money that comes from a trip to the NY6. This is especially true as a G5 team who comes from microscopic media deals compared to P5 programs. So, it’s worth taking a look at what type of pay day is coming Memphis’ way.
A non-playoff NY6 bowl game nets both participating teams a $4 million payout. That’s double the amount of the current AAC media deal. Of course that media deal is about to jump to around $7 million, but that is still a fraction of what P5 conferences make.
In 2008, the SEC signed their media deal with ESPN. That was worth over $2 billion. Their CBS deal was $55 million annually for the conference to distribute. That’s good for $40.9 million annually, per school. That’s just for being on TV. That’s not ticket sales. That’s not advertising. That’s not merchandise sales. That’s not donations from boosters.
Oh, and the BIG 10 somehow makes more.
For a Group of 5 team that $4 million goes a long way. That can cover the cost of a head coach for two to three seasons, at least, in the G5. That could cover the cost of your indoor practice facility.
Maybe, if you’re in a hard luck situation, that money can go towards having your athletics programs break even. Plenty of programs could really use that money just to cover their normal operations. UConn infamously ran a $40 million deficit in 2018. You can be sure they’re not the only program who does so.
Now, here’s the other thing. All that publicity doesn’t go nowhere. It doesn’t only mean that the Memphis football program’s Twitter account has more followers. That too will help bring in money.
People will be excited to watch, and see what Memphis is doing as a program. Having more eyes on the Tigers means there will be more sponsors, who are also willing to pay more. The rise in sponsorship was already on its way to Memphis before this season, with, “Steady increase,” of sponsors in each of the last five seasons.
Furthermore, the Liberty Bowl should see an increase in tickets sales. That’s more people buying food, drinks, and Memphis merchandise. It doesn’t matter if you’re a G5 or P5, a full stadium is a huge money maker. UCF’s athletic director Danny White estimated the Knights bring in $2 million per home game.
Along with all of this attention will come a huge rise in donations to the programs. Just last off-season both UCF and Memphis received separate donations of $13 million from the same couple. This publicity only makes those donations explode.
All of this extra money that has been coming into UCF, and has begun to come into Memphis is a huge deal. College football is an arms race between oligarchs. There are those who have money, and those who don’t.
Those who have money build insane facilities in order to attract the best recruits. By having the best recruits the richest programs win more. Thus, they make more money. With that money they repeat the cycle.
Those who don’t have money do none of that. They try to break even.
UCF is famously using some of their donations to build a lazy river for student athletes. They’re trying to step above and beyond other G5 programs in terms of facilities. Memphis is in a unique position to keep pace with UCF, as both programs look to elevate themselves beyond the status of your garden variety G5 program.
To put it simply, it’s nice that Memphis will have an opportunity to get a marquee win in their program’s history. However, the money that comes just from going to this game is far and away the most important thing coming to Memphis in the long term.