Alabama spent $7.3M, Clemson $5.4M on College Football Playoff trips –

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Alabama earned the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship on the field and spent handsomely off it.

The national champion Crimson Tide totaled $7.3 million in costs for two CFP trips, while runner-up Clemson spent $5.4 million, according to NCAA postseason expense reports for all four playoff teams obtained from the universities by CBS Sports.

A year ago, Ohio State spent $4.4 million and Oregon $3.8 million for their playoff trips, which included a meeting in the title game.

Alabama spent the most on a single playoff game this past season, totaling $4.8 million in costs for the CFP National Championship in Glendale, Arizona. That equates to $5,555 per person who made the trip, easily the highest per-game average in the two-year history of the CFP.

Clemson, which traveled about the same distance as Alabama, spent $1.6 million less on its championship trip. Michigan State spent about $786,000 less than Alabama for their respective semifinal trip to the Cotton Bowl.

To put Alabama’s 2016 title game costs in perspective, the school spent $4.3 million for the 2010 BCS Championship Game in Pasadena, California. Back then, the NCAA required schools to count bonuses for coaches and administrators in bowl expense reports. That’s no longer the case. Alabama spent $6.7 million on the 2016 CFP National Championship game itself when counting bonuses.

The Crimson Tide sent a traveling party of 904 people to Arlington, Texas, for the Cotton Bowl and 857 to Arizona. Alabama brought 908 people to the semifinal at the Sugar Bowl in 2015, 881 to Miami for the 2013 BCS Championship Game and 778 to New Orleans for the 2012 BCS Championship Game.

The financial numbers reported to the NCAA do not include postseason revenue from the CFP and a participant’s conference, travel allowances provided to the teams or costly expenses associated with CFP bonuses to coaches and other employees. Due to that, bottom-line figures depend on schools’ own accounting measures.

The CFP distributed $70.9 million to the ACC, $66.8 million to the SEC, $66.6 million to the Big Ten, $65 million to the Big 12 and $57.5 million to the Pac-12. Those amounts do not count revenue separately distributed by the Rose Bowl to the Big Ten and Pac-12, and by the Sugar Bowl to the SEC and Big 12. The CFP gave out $425 million to conferences and independent schools, up 4 percent from the inaugural season.

Bonuses are no longer counted by the NCAA, but they were hefty in some cases. Alabama spent nearly $2 million on bonuses to 62 recipients thanks to the playoff. Clemson gave out $1.9 million in bonuses, Michigan State $1.1 million and Oklahoma $517,000.

Alabama won the 2016 CFP National Championship (and spent plenty doing it). (USATSI)
Alabama won the 2016 CFP National Championship (and spent plenty doing it). (USATSI)

One of the big questions posed when the CFP started was how many fans would buy tickets to the semifinal games given an extra round of costs and the short turnaround to the championship game.

Semifinal tickets purchased from their schools by fans at Michigan State (10,847), Clemson (10,048) and Oklahoma (9,920) were less than three of the four semifinalists in the playoff’s first year. (Alabama did not provide information detailing the number of tickets it sold this postseason.) These figures don’t account for tickets purchased on the secondary market.

The 2015-16 playoff teams combined to absorb their committed tickets for three games at a total loss of $3.7 million, up from $2.4 million for Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State and Oregon in the first playoff. Absorbing ticket costs occurs when schools don’t sell some to the public, either because there’s not enough demand or they keep some tickets for complimentary use.

The Big 12 absorbed 1,116 of Oklahoma’s Orange Bowl tickets at a cost of $201,695. The Big Ten absorbed costs for 221 of Michigan State’s Cotton Bowl tickets at a rate of $35,850.

The schools sold semifinal tickets for $290, $195, $175 and $150. The vast majority went for $175, but Michigan State sold 80 percent of its tickets for $150. For the national title game, Clemson sold tickets for $850, $650, $550, $450 and $200 with almost all of them going for $650, $550 or $450.

How much does it cost to feed and lodge a playoff team? Alabama dominated its competitors in this category, spending about $307,000 more on its team and staff than Clemson did in Arizona. Alabama also paid $405,000 more than Michigan State while in Texas, even though the Spartans’ trip lasted one more day.

Alabama brought 375 team and staff members to Texas and 343 to Arizona. Oklahoma sent 355 to Florida, Michigan State took 335 to Texas, and Clemson brought 321 to Florida and 311 to Arizona.

Additional costs listed by Clemson included practice officials, pompoms, scissor lift rental, laundry, security and babysitting. Alabama listed practice officials, security and family travel allowance as part of its extra costs.

For entertainment, the Crimson Tide spent $364,286 on its two playoff trips — or roughly the amount it cost the school to transport 375 players and staffers to the Cotton Bowl. Clemson, Michigan State and Oklahoma combined for $52,526 in entertainment costs.

In addition, Alabama spent $286,912 on awards for players from two playoff games, compared to $103,034 for Clemson. The NCAA allows players who reach the postseason to receive awards that must comply with the association’s limits.

While spending extravagantly, Alabama left with the most priceless award: a 16th national title.

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