It ain't cheap to go bowling

by Leslie Turk

"I keep telling people how expensive it is to come to a bowl game," UL AD Scott Farmer says.

UL Athletics Director Scott Farmer was beset by bowl-game spending questions Thursday.

The Daily Advertiser reported in its Thursday edition, as part of a story on the Sun Belt Conference's new arrangement for distributing bowl-game income, that the department incurred $750,000 to $775,000 in expenses in last year's R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl trip.

Even Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson asked Farmer about those numbers, thinking they were high.

"I keep telling people how expensive it is to come to a bowl game," Farmer says. "It's not just the trip itself ... absolutely everything associated with us getting a bid and playing in a bowl game is included in that number."

UL generated just over $1 million last year from its New Orleans Bowl trip, leaving a profit of approximately a quarter-million dollars.

Farmer enumerated several areas of expense that most fans and followers may not realize, among them but not limited to:

* Housing and feeding a large traveling party. The UL athletic party fills approximately 125 rooms at the New Orleans Marriott for five nights at full rack rate (the Sun Belt assigned the hotel), and that doesn't include the various university administrative staff that is also on hand for a shorter amount of time.

* Band and spirit groups. The Pride of Acadiana band, some 300 strong, was on hand for four days last year for a significant hotel, meal and transportation tab. The cheerleaders and dance line adds three or four dozen more to that party.

* Coaches' bonuses. The UL coaching staff has bonuses built into their contracts for making it to a bowl game. Head coach Mark Hudspeth has the largest bonus, but the nine assistant coaches all are compensated for bowl invitations and successes.

* Other employees. The department paid untold hours of overtime to staff who were eligible for that, including a ticket office staff that routinely worked 12-or-more-hour days from the time that UL received its bowl invitation.

* Team housing and meals. It's not just the bowl trip ... since the team had to remain on campus after its Dec. 1 regular-season finale, the athletic department has to pick up the tab for team housing and meals from the time the fall semester ends until they depart for the bowl game. This year, that was an extra two weeks of room charges and per diem for a team party that numbers well over 100.

* Rings and bowl gifts for players and staff, not to exceed NCAA guidelines.

"There's a lot more than those," Farmer says. "Everything that's triggered by us going to a bowl figures into that."

This year, with the new regulations requiring the revenue split with the conference, Farmer says UL's total income will obviously be smaller. He was the only league athletic director to vehemently oppose the new regulations.

"The schools that had never been to bowls were all in favor of it," he says. "The schools that had been to bowl games, they all had new athletic directors who didn't know what was going on. I was a one-man fight."

Farmer says the regulations are in place just for this year, and the process will be revisited by the league's AD's this spring.