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Ohio State shells out $8M to play non-B1G teams

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By the end of Ohio State football’s 2013 non-conference schedule, OSU will have paid non-Big Ten visitors more than $8.1 million in guaranteed money for playing at Ohio Stadium during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons. That’s several million dollars more than several Big Ten teams paid non-conference visitors during the same period. It’s almost $1 million more than Alabama, the reigning national champion, paid during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Still, the athletic department and a sports economist agree that more than $8.1 million in guaranteed money is typical.
Recipients of the more than $8.1 million to be paid by OSU include Akron, Toledo, Colorado, Miami (Ohio), Central Florida, California and Alabama-Birmingham. The Buckeyes football team went 7-0 in those contests. Vanderbilt, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Buffalo will be paid for playing at Ohio Stadium in 2013.
It might sound like a lot, but the money OSU is dishing out to its non-conference foes is standard, said OSU associate athletic director for finance Pete Hagan.
Due to the size of Ohio Stadium, which typically seats more than its listed capacity of 102,329, OSU is able to pay more to visiting non-conference teams, Hagan said. He added that OSU’s contracts with non-Big Ten teams are still competitive with the rest of the league.
“We make more money off of a home football game, therefore we can pay someone a little bit higher for a one-time appearance in Columbus … because of the size of our stadium,” Hagan said. “If you contacted a lot of the other Big Ten schools, they’re paying very similar guarantees to non-conference schools … Most of (the contracts) are pretty standard as far as the flat guarantee, the number of tickets we make available for them to purchase. There really isn’t much difference from contract to contract.”
OSU paid nearly $2.3 million to Akron and Colorado during the 2011 season. The amount of guaranteed money paid to Toledo was not available, said OSU athletics spokesman Jerry Emig in an email to The Lantern.
For its recently completed slate of non-conference home games in 2012, OSU’s four opponents netted a total of $2.8 million, Emig said in an email.
Next season, OSU will pay Vanderbilt, FAMU and Buffalo, paying a total of nearly $3.1 million.
Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist and professor at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., said the amount OSU has paid during the three-year period is a lot of money but is typical in modern college athletics.
“Ohio State only has so many games it can play in the Big Ten,” Zimbalist said. “It needs to have out-of-conference games at the beginning of the season. At the beginning of the season, it wants to have games against weaker opponents so it can get itself in condition. So these are all factors that go into those fees.
“Again, I think for any of the automatic (Bowl Championship Series) qualifier conferences, ($8 million) over three years might be on the upper end, but it’s certainly within the normal range.”
Normal happens to be more than No. 1-ranked Alabama football paid to its visitors during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Alabama paid nearly $4.2 million to its non-Southeastern Conference opponents during the two-year period to the nearly $5.1 million OSU paid out to non-conference opponents during the same period.
The range within the Big Ten varies widely – OSU’s Saturday opponent, Nebraska, will pay almost $4 million to its non-conference opponents during the three-year span from 2011 through 2013, which began with its inaugural season in the conference.
Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium (capacity of more than 81,000) in Lincoln, will host nine non-Big Ten teams during the three-year period.
Beyond Nebraska, analysis of three additional Big Ten programs – Iowa, Illinois and Purdue – during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons shows payouts that fall several million dollars short of OSU’s.
Iowa will pay the nine teams visiting a total of more than $5.4 million while Illinois will pay a total of more than $5.2 million to its 10 non-Big Ten opponents. Purdue will pay a total of almost $4.4 million to its nine opponents.
All other Big Ten schools did not respond to The Lantern‘s record requests for football contracts for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Respective Big Ten respondents also each have smaller stadiums than the Buckeyes’, and OSU’s senior associate athletic director Ben Jay said teams with smaller stadiums simply can’t pay as much.
Money paid to non-conference opponents is based on a team’s on-field history, Jay said, as well past contract guarantees.
“It’s going to vary even within the Big Ten. Those folks in the Big Ten who have smaller stadiums … certainly can’t pay the kind of big guarantees and get the kind of opponents that we can,” Jay said. “We’re still kind of trying to stay within … what we envision as the reasonable range to pay for certain opponents.” 

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