Money game: UGA-Florida Atlantic pays off for both sides

Florida Atlantic is assured of setting one Sanford Stadium record Saturday night: The Owls will pocket the largest paycheck of any visiting team in Georgia football history.

Georgia will pay Florida Atlantic $1 million for making the trip to Athens — a reflection of the rising cost of scheduling presumed easy victories against FBS nonconference opponents that don’t require a return engagement on their campus.

UGA scheduled the game and agreed to the seven-figure payout after canceling a two-year, home-and-home series with Louisville to accommodate last season’s opener against Boise State in the Georgia Dome.

“We were fortunate [FAU] was available to play on this date,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said this week. “But to make the date work, there was an expectation we had to pay a million dollars. That has kind of become the going rate.”

He isn’t complaining. Even after the record payout, UGA will clear about $1.7 million from the game, according to figures in the school’s athletics budget.

The game, which gives Georgia seven rather than the formerly customary six home games this season, is budgeted to bring in about $2.7 million in ticket revenue, $160,000 in concessions profits and $7,500 from novelty sales. After the FAU payout and about $200,000 in other game expenses, the rest flows to the bottom line.

Even for a UGA athletics department that expects to generate $92 million in revenue this fiscal year, the night’s windfall will be significant. It is more than enough, for example, to cover the annual budgets of the soccer ($667,000) and softball ($790,000) programs.

Georgia will have only six home football games next season, when it plays at Clemson in a tradeoff for a 2014 game in Athens. “We’ll have to be creative in the budget next year to make up that difference,” McGarity said.

FAU won’t sympathize.

To help balance its budget, the school is playing road games against highly ranked SEC opponents on back-to-back Saturdays — this one against No. 7 Georgia and next week against No. 1 Alabama, which will pay the Owls another $1 million.

Payouts have increased because of a supply-demand imbalance: fewer mid-major FBS teams looking to play for pay than big-budget teams willing to pay for play. Two seasons ago, Georgia got Louisiana Lafayette to play in Athens for $875,000. But this season’s opener against Buffalo required a $975,000 payout, UGA’s highest until this week.

(Georgia doesn’t pay SEC schools or Georgia Tech for playing in Athens because those games are reciprocated when the Bulldogs go on the road. Also, FCS opponents — such as Georgia Southern, which plays at UGA on Nov. 17 — command much smaller payouts than the likes of Florida Atlantic. Georgia Southern will get $475,000 for the game in Athens.)

Economics may explain why the paycheck games are scheduled, but the scoreboard and the attendance usually reflect the arguments against them.

Florida Atlantic, a Sun Belt Conference team that went 1-11 last season, is a 43-point underdog to Georgia. And although such games occasionally backfire on the home team (see: Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007 and Louisiana Monroe over Arkansas last week), they usually produce unsavory results (see: Oklahoma State 84, Savannah State 0 two weeks ago) and diminished crowds.

“I don’t think it’s good for college football, but I understand the reality of why schools have to play those games budgetarily,” FAU coach Carl Pelini told the Associated Press.

Georgia has sold out 92,746-seat Sanford Stadium for Saturday, selling the last few hundred tickets early this week in the aftermath of the victory at Missouri. It won’t be a surprise, though, if a noticeable number of students and season-ticket holders are no-shows.

McGarity’s scheduling philosophy, which he brought with him when he returned to Georgia in 2010 after 18 years at Florida, generally is to have seven home games, only occasionally dipping to six in order to play a marquee opponent on a neutral field or in a home-and-home series. With eight SEC opponents and Georgia Tech on the schedule each season, McGarity believes that playing the other three games at home against lower-level opponents — two from an FBS mid-major league and one from the FCS level — best positions Georgia to make a run for the SEC Championship game.

It is uncertain if that philosophy will stand in the coming era of a four-team national playoff, where strength of schedule will be a factor in selecting the field. Georgia’s next opening on a schedule is in 2015, and McGarity is awaiting clarity on playoff criteria before filling it.

Money games are nothing new to Florida Atlantic, which has played — and lost to — Florida, Michigan State, Auburn, Texas, Nebraska and South Carolina in the past few seasons.

Pelini wants FAU to find value beyond dollars in the trip to Athens.

“I want our players to share my vision, and I want my administration and school administration to share my vision,” he told reporters in Boca Raton, Fla. “To go up and play a team that is perennially a top-20 team and see not just [what’s] on the football field but the organization itself [and] how their players act on the field, how their players prepare, how they execute and how their athletic staff administration as a whole conducts the game-day experience — all those things are positive for a school like FAU [to see] because that’s what my vision for this program ultimately would be.”

199 comments Add your comment

Season Ticket Holder Staying Home

September 13th, 2012
6:50 pm

Everyone should stay home to stop this nonsense. One cupcake is enough, 3 is ridiculous. If they don’t make money on these games they will stop. No team with 3 cupcakes on the schedule should be allowed play in the NC game. Strength of schedule should count

dawg4u

September 13th, 2012
6:58 pm

As a huge dawg fan I am embarrassed that we are playing the Florida Atlantic Owls. It pays off for both teams but certainly not the fans. Who in their right mind wants to watch this?

Dawgs ar every bad business people, evidently...

September 13th, 2012
7:08 pm

Alabama only paid GS State $400, last year for the beat down, and UT only paid them about $395K this year. Compare that to what UGA paid New Mexico last year, $1mil, and FL Atlantic this year, $1mil, and boy, do the Dawgs look foolish.

And now that they have set the bar they will have to continue to overpay in order for these type schools to play them – how much did Buffalo get, and how much will GA Southern get?

Dawgs are very bad business people, evidently...

September 13th, 2012
7:09 pm

Oops – should be GA State and $400K…

GoDawgs34

September 13th, 2012
7:10 pm

If you are a season ticket holder you should go to the games to support the team. Empty seats are demoralizing…. And thinking Georgia Southern is a cupcake is a huge mistake. They run the triple option better than GT in my opinion. Georgia Southern could beat many automatic BCS qualifying teams.

Dawgs are very bad business people, evidently...

September 13th, 2012
7:10 pm

Evidently GA Southern is not very well managed, either, if they only get $475K…

What About Bob?

September 13th, 2012
7:13 pm

Having to run the gauntlet of an SEC schedule is brutal, ALL teams need a breather. Relax and enjoy the season we have a long way to go.

Tim Tucker

September 13th, 2012
7:21 pm

Georgia State and Georgia Southern command lower payouts because they are FCS teams. In general, payouts for games against FCS opponents are about half what they are against FBS mid-majors. Only one win per season over an FCS team can count toward bowl eligibility, so there’s more demand (and higher payouts) for teams in FBS leagues like the Sun Belt.

BigDawg

September 13th, 2012
7:21 pm

I believe in McGarity. Obviously, the scheduling strategy he brought from UF worked for them. If you win the SEC, you will be in the NC game. GO DAWGS!

Octoberdawg

September 13th, 2012
7:22 pm

Hey SeasonTicketHolder….some of these teams that play for a NC have those “cupcakes” in their respective conferences. When you have to play 8 SEC games, you can afford to play a few cupcakes. Would you rather play Southern Cal, Tech, Clemson and Texas as our non-conference games?

BigDawg

September 13th, 2012
7:22 pm

Good clarification Tim Tucker for all those haters!

7576DAWG

September 13th, 2012
7:23 pm

It is no different playing the cupcakes of the Big 12 or ACC or Big East or Big10 and there are a lot of cupcakes in those Conferences. The only difference is if we schedule one of those teams we will have to play them at their field the next year. As stated about it is hard to find a team that doesn’t require a return engagement on their campus.

BigDawg

September 13th, 2012
7:23 pm

Amen OctoberDawg! There is nothing even close to SEC competition!!

dawg4u

September 13th, 2012
7:23 pm

I guess we do need a breather after Buffalo and Missouri!

dawg4u

September 13th, 2012
7:24 pm

I guess we do need a breather after Buffalo and Missouri !

Delbert D.

September 13th, 2012
7:26 pm

Novelty sales? Is that legal on a college campus? Will the store windows be blacked out?

Dawgs are very bad business people, evidently...

September 13th, 2012
7:26 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Mr. Tucker…

Dawgs are very bad business people, evidently...

September 13th, 2012
7:32 pm

So you mean next year tht whatever FCS teams outside the Sun Belt Conference who plays GA State will have to pay them $1mil, instead of the current $400K in order for them to get pasted since they will be a FBS school? WOW, no wonder they accelerated their building schedule…

Tim Tucker

September 13th, 2012
7:43 pm

Yep, when Georgia State is in FBS, it’ll be able to command the much higher payouts.

Worm

September 13th, 2012
7:45 pm

Well, they Go to BAMA next week and have a return engagement in a year ot two in Tuskaloosa”

drbasic1

September 13th, 2012
8:23 pm

hey season ticket holder….don’t you go to the games and pay the big bucks as a donor to see the dawgs play? Does it matter who they play? You sound like one of the 50 yard line dead beats who never get up and cheer anyone, thus who gives a rats a$$ if you stay at home or not! I am an alumnus and a hartman fund contributor but i live in Texas and my schedule does not allow me to attend all games. I brought my adult son to the Kentucky game last year, it was his first, it was the experience itself….didn’t matter the opponent…I would LOVE to be there for EVERY home game, as I love the dawgs and am there to SUPPORT them……get your money back, I am sure many are waiting to take your lame non support place!

drbasic1

September 13th, 2012
8:27 pm

@ dawg4u

read my 8:23 post….same goes for you.

chase

September 13th, 2012
8:31 pm

generating nearly 100 million a year….in state tuition should be free…! And that’s coming from a UGA grad and former walk-on player!

drbasic1

September 13th, 2012
8:37 pm

Chase you didn’t major in Business Management did you?

Just Saying

September 13th, 2012
8:52 pm

Bama played Ga Southern last year and plays Florida Atlantic next week. Give me a break, these games obviously have ZERO impact on preventing a team from making it to a NC game……in fact, they help make the journey possible!!! I wish the pessimists would look at the big picture and quit blasting McGarity for doing things right with the scheduling.

Season Ticket Holder Staying Home

September 13th, 2012
8:57 pm

Some of you folks would probably go just to see Russ get his collar. You obviously don’t care about real football.

This has nothing to do with supporting the team. Its just about money (See article title)

Hope we play the LA Monroe cupcakes next year.

Sorry, Ga Southern without Erk or Paul is just another cupcake.

Mobile Dawg

September 13th, 2012
9:10 pm

Good for FAU, a million dollars will go a long way toward their bottom line. Congrats to you Hartman Fund donors for supporting FAU. Sometime you people are to ignorant for your own good.

kingdaddy

September 13th, 2012
9:13 pm

Season ticket holder, lol. Maybe for Tech. Definitely not a UGA fan, not a good one anyway. An insessant whinner crying on a blog about something, anything. More like another nerd troll trying to make UGA look bad here because you can’t do it on the field. You don’t like the Dawgs, “don’t let the screendoor hit ya, where the good Lord split ya! “…

kingdaddy

September 13th, 2012
9:16 pm

A Dawg fan making fun of Big Russ? I don’t think so. Just another troll…

Mobile Dawg

September 13th, 2012
9:32 pm

kingdaddy, Russ has “earned” his tenure as UGA IV. Sometimes us bastards just can’t be beat.

William

September 13th, 2012
9:39 pm

I’ll be there Saturday night. I don’t care who we play, I support the DAWGS. Quit whinning about the schedule. We have plenty of tough games ahead, Vandy, Tennessee, S. Carolina, etc. We need a breather or two. GATA DAWGS

Cut tan

September 13th, 2012
9:49 pm

The only reason they scheduled FAU is because of the Boise state game last year! So why is everyone up in arms. Go get drunk and enjoy the night game. Have fun and Go Dawgs.

kingdaddy

September 13th, 2012
10:10 pm

Buckheaddawg

September 13th, 2012
10:12 pm

At least this article didn’t have anything from carvell in it……

kingdaddy

September 13th, 2012
10:13 pm

Atta boy William…
Cut tan, I’ll drink to that…

kingdaddy

September 13th, 2012
10:16 pm

MobileDawg
I have a feeling wayyyyyyy down deep, that Russ may end up as one of the best team players we’ve ever had. Now if we can teach him to hate anyone in an Auburn uniform…

Dawg

September 13th, 2012
10:24 pm

Ga southern is no cupcake..fau is scheduled because of the boise game last year. These games are for money, getting some players experince/playing time, and to help wirk on the little things that go wrong in the big games. It shouldnt matter who they play, support is support. Im almist sure there are trolls here, but watever, I made my point

Bvlle Dawg

September 13th, 2012
10:42 pm

In life you play the cards dealt to you, let’s play whoever,whenever,wherever and get better, See you Sat nite, we’ll start rockin and gettin these guys ready to make a run to the dome

sldasdf

September 13th, 2012
10:46 pm

College football is a poor product. There is no way I’d pay to watch this crap. Do away with the needless conferences. Schedule 10 quality opponents and then have a 16 team playoff. Let the other sports play intramurals if they want. Who cares. Let the crappy schools give up football. All this money changes hands and none of it trickles down to the people who make it happen.

fan

September 13th, 2012
10:59 pm

How much money did Presbyterian pay the yellow blowflys to play them?

mopardog

September 13th, 2012
11:02 pm

Show me some Faton Bauta this Saturday!! Can’t wait to see this guy get some action!!

mopardog

September 13th, 2012
11:20 pm

@sldasdf

Get Out! Get the Eff Out!! Why are you here bashing college football? It is a deeply rooted rich tradition for every fan of any team, even the nerds at GA tech. If you don’t want to pay money to watch what you consider “crap” well guess what. You don’t have to! Face reality and realize that money is part of the whole football “game.” I don’t like it anymore than you do, but that is how it is.

Fair n Balanced

September 13th, 2012
11:25 pm

I don’t support Mgarity. Ga should always have 7 home games in this era. And without playing teams like FAU. this is meaningless, makes the weekend uninteresting and you’ll find the fans unexcited. Poor choice to start last season with a team like BS too. It’s all about money. Nothing else. Mgarity is all about it and does not care what he has to do to get it. Willing to throw out our unis to get whipped in Atlanta, now this week a second home game vs a cupcake. Poor scheduling my friend.

7576DAWG

September 14th, 2012
12:05 am

The best way to add a home game at least every other year is to stop giving Florida an extra home game every year. Ever since I attended UGA in the early to mid 70’s I have chosen not to support Jacksonville. 37 years and counting and very proud of it. The one year they brought the game back to Athens I couldn’t go because of family matters.
Maybe in my lifetime but I am not holding my breath.

mopardog

September 14th, 2012
12:21 am

Hell Yeah 7576DAWG! Lets bring it back Between the Hedges and into The Swamp!!! Enough of this crap. Lets just play some ball dammit!

L.A. BULLDAWG

September 14th, 2012
12:47 am

SOME SCHOOLS WILL DO ANYTHING FOR MONEY! WITNESS: NOTRE DAME! WHAT A JOKE! THEY PRETEND TO BE HOLIER THAN THOU, BUT, THE SECOND A MAJOR CONFERENCE COMES CALLING, THERE THEY GO! ATLEAST FLORIDA ATLANTIC, DOESN’T PRETEND! UGA 56 FLA. ATLANTIC 0!

Top Row Dawg

September 14th, 2012
1:10 am

Ain’t nothing better than a day long tailgate in Athens Georgia. A 7:45 game on ESPN 3 and fans still complain. Looking forward to seeing some stats put up and some players we wouldn’t normally see. Looking forward to displaying my Larry Munson greatest calls program collection down by the dawg walk all day (stop by for trip down memory lane). Looking forward to good friends, grilled food, big screen TV games in the fresh air. A breather after last weeks heart stopper. Another game for the suspended players to count off.

Fixing to hit a stretch of tough competition. Nothing wrong with an easy ticket to bring kids and grand kids over for a Georgia experience.

Anyone who boycotts should at least donate the tickets to someone who may consider it a joyous celebration. If you just want empty seats on TV to show your protest, I have to question your commitment to the program. We’ve paid our dues with the tough schedule lately OSU / Colorado / Boise State. I would have like to seen Louisville, but this is what we got so suck it up, show up, this is our season Dawg fans DON’T MISS IT…….BE THERE.

Salty Dawg

September 14th, 2012
4:33 am

Season ticket you Tech boys better be glad Ga Southern isn’t playing you they would give you a beat down.Ask Saban how much of a cupcake they were last year,put up more yards and points than anyone has in several years…….

barrow dog

September 14th, 2012
6:10 am

i really like seeing how much the other sport programs cost, and think an article showing how the business of college football pays for most of those programs would be interesting. if not for a profitable football program, tuition/taxes would have to cover those cost.

Old Dog Class of 80

September 14th, 2012
6:35 am

So, what exactly, do the Dawgs get out of this game other than a practice game? A chance to run up Aaron Murray’s stats? What do we fans get out of it? Nothing! If they win, it was an easy win. If they lose, OMG. They won’t get anthing out of it. I remember the last one of these “cupcakes” I attended in Athens, It was such a snoozer that I left just after halftime.