College bowl games have been around since January 1, 1902 with a game between Michigan and Stanford in Pasadena's Tournament Park. The Tournament East-West Football Game, eventually became known as the Rose Bowl, the oldest and most stories of all college football matches. Today these games have expanded to include a variety of different tournaments and championships. There are 35 different bowl games in the college football season every year from mid-December to early January.
College football programs are looking to reach bowl games not only to cap off a season but also to earn more money for their school and their team. While the added success and national television exposure greatly help for recruiting purposes, the money generated from these games is especially significant for winning teams.
Schools are getting millions of dollars for reaching bowl games. This money often comes from a combination of both television broadcast rights and sponsorship rights for individual games. For instance, a good amount of the $650,000 that each team in the Hawaii Bowl gets for playing in that game comes from Sheraton, the game's title sponsor.
More prominent games, particularly Bowl Championship Series games, will get more money because they attract a larger number of sponsors and ones that can pay more money. Since college football is so popular in the United States, these games are also able to land bigger TV rights packages. Meanwhile, low-level bowls tend to get less money because they involve teams that aren't in much demand for a television audience or for sponsorships. For instance, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl pays $325,000 to each team that plays. The fact that teams in the MWC and MAC, two conferences that are not in high demand for TV rights, play in this game only serves to make the bowl less profitable.
Some games even have disparities in terms of how teams are paid out, but this is often due to the teams' individual records. The BBVA Compass Bowl is an example of this. The eighth or ninth team in the SEC gets $1 million while the fifth place team from the American Athletic Conference gets just $900,000. This could be due to the SEC having a stronger reputation for football and being a bigger ratings draw than an AAC team.
This listing of the biggest bowl games in college football includes numbers for the 2013 season and take into account the amount of money that each team gets. With the exception of the Chik-Fil-A Bowl, both teams are awarded the same amount coming into a championship game.
10 Russell Athletic Bowl - $2.325 Million Per Team
The Russell Athletic Bowl is a game that covers the third best team in the ACC and the second best team in the American Athletic Conference, a conference that features the football-specific schools from the old Big East plus a few extras like Houston, UCF and Tulsa. Notre Dame also has a share in the game. This bowl, held in Orlando, Florida currently pays out $2.325 million to each participating team. While the terms of the naming rights with Russell Athletic are unknown, it's worth noting that seven companies have sponsored the game in the last twenty years including Blockbuster Video, Carquest, Mazda, Champs Sports and even Florida's tourism department.
9 Gator Bowl - $2.725 Million Per Team
The Gator Bowl features teams from the Big Ten and SEC and has a payout of $2.725 million per team. This is a far cry from when a couple of business figures in Jacksonville spent $10,000 to set up the first edition of the game in 1946. The payout for this bowl has increased over the years as companies like Mazda, Toyota and Konica Minolta have all been sponsors. TaxSlayer.com, the current sponsor of the game, has not released details on how much money they have invested in it. However, TaxSlayer.com has been involved in many other sports sponsorships like Regan Smith's car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
8 Alamo Bowl - $3.175 Million Per Team
The Alamo Bowl celebrated its twentieth anniversary last year. The game is held in San Antonio's Alamodome and features Big XII and Pac-12 teams each year. Each team gets $3.175 million for playing in the game. The increase in payout from $2.5 million three years ago comes from Valero taking over as the title sponsor for the game. The Valero Energy Corporation has more than $40 billion in assets, giving the company more than enough money to obtain the naming rights to the game that is based right out of the company's backyard. Builders Square also sponsored the game until the company went under in the late 1990s.
7 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl - $3.325 Million Per Team
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Arizona features Big Ten and Big XII teams competing against each other each year. Buffalo Wild Wings, a causal dining chain that made close to $800 million in revenue last year and has nearly $500 million in assets, recently started sponsoring the game. The event was previously known as the Insight Bowl for more than a decade and was called the Copper Bowl before that. The game used to feature Pac-12 teams but has recently switched to the Big Ten. The payout is still strong though as teams are getting $3.325 million for reaching the game.
6 Outback Bowl - $3.5 Million Per Team
The third place teams in the Big Ten and SEC both play in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida each year. Formerly known as the Hall of Fame Bowl, the Outback Bowl has a $3.5 million payout that is an increase from $3.2 million from two years ago. Over the years, around $100 million has been paid out to the many different schools that have competed in the game. In fact, the tickets for this game average around $80 each, proving its high level of interest for local spectators. This is a noteworthy value for a game that is named solely after its sponsor.
5 Cotton Bowl Classic - $3.625 Million Per Team
The AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic gets its name from the stadium in which it was originally played in Dallas, Texas at the site of the Texas State Fair. It was played there from 1937 until 2009 when it moved to the much larger Cowboys Stadium in nearby Arlington. The second place team in the Big XII takes on either the third or fourth place team in the SEC each year. Both teams get $3.625 million for playing the game, representing a mere fraction of the $1.3 billion that was spent to build Cowboys Stadium which opened its doors to the public in 2009.
4 Chick-Fil-A Bowl - $3.96 Million for ACC Teams, $2.93 Million for SEC Teams
The Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia was once called the Peach Bowl. Currently, Chick-Fil-A pays more than $4 million a year for the naming rights to the game. The ACC's second place team takes on the fifth place team in the SEC in this game. The reason why the ACC team gets $1.03 million more than the SEC team is due to the fact that ACC teams have a much higher ranking than SEC teams. This is in spite of the ACC and SEC having an even split at five wins each in the last ten editions of this game.
3 Capital One Bowl - $4.55 Million Per Team
The Capital One Bowl was once known as both the Tangerine Bowl and the Florida Citrus Bowl. This game takes place in Orlando each year and features the second place teams in the SEC and Big Ten. The game pays out $4.55 million to each team, making it the most valuable non-BCS game in all of college football. The fact that both teams have been in the Top 25 in each edition of the game since 1985 only helps add to the value of the game as it features some of the best teams that could not make it into the BCS.
2 Fiesta/Orange/Rose/Sugar Bowls - $17 Million Each Per Team
The four BCS bowls that are below the BCS National Championship Game are all equally valuable in their own rights. While the Rose Bowl Game and the Orange and Sugar Bowls have been around for more then seventy-five years, the much younger Fiesta Bowl still has the same payout of $17 million per team. Much of this is thanks to some of the high-end sponsors that support the games. For instance, the Orange Bowl is sponsored by FedEx, a company that had around $42.7 billion in revenue in 2012. Allstate, Vizio and Frito-Lay's Tostitos brand also support these high-end bowl games.
1 BCS National Championship Game - $18 Million Per Team
The BCS National Championship Game sees the top two teams in the final BCS standings going head to head to determine who the best team in college football really is. While it is going to be phased out in favour of a four-team playoff system starting in 2014, this game has included many top name schools over the years including Alabama, LSU, Florida, Oklahoma and Ohio State. Today each team gets $18 million for reaching the game with the winner receiving the crystal football trophy that's the envy of ever college team. The trophy itself is worth $30,000 with its fine Waterford Crystal design and large pedestal for display purposes.
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