The University of Maryland athletic department agreed to pay Bowling Green a $400,000 guarantee to play the Terrapins at Byrd Stadium on Sept. 12, according to contract documents provided by Bowling Green through an Ohio public records request. The Falcons beat Maryland, 48-27, in the first meeting of a three-game series outlined under a contract first signed in 2007. Paying smaller schools to travel (and presumably lose) is common practice for power programs.
Maryland will also play Bowling Green in 2018 and 2019. In 2018, Bowling Green will host Maryland and pay the Terrapins a $150,000 guarantee. In 2019, the Falcons will return to Byrd Stadium and collect another $400,000. In total, for the three games between this year and 2018, Maryland will pay out $800,000, making for a net guarantee cost of $650,000.
In 2007, under former athletic director Debbie Yow, Maryland had agreed with Bowling Green on a three-game series between 2010 and 2015, with this year's game being the capper. But records say the series was officially pushed back in 2011, after Maryland's administration had shifted to new athletic director Kevin Anderson.
According to the documents, Maryland was originally to pay Bowling Green guarantees of $325,000 for each visit to College Park, but those figures were raised to $400,000 later. Maryland's $150,000 road game guarantee is unchanged.
An addendum to the 2007 contract, finalized in 2011, bears the signatures of Anderson and former BGSU athletic director Greg Christopher. There are some other interesting items in the contract, too, especially for those of us not used to seeing what the paperwork between college athletic departments look like. Among them:
- Maryland gave Bowling Green an even 400 complimentary tickets, plus a sales allotment of 2,000. If amounts of those tickets remained unsold within certain times from game day, they were to be returned. (No word on if this actually happened.)
- Each team was allowed 50 sideline passes.
- Maryland agreed to give Bowling Green a CPA-audited "game report" by February, though it's not clear what revenue-sharing purpose this might hold. The contract indicates Maryland will not pay Bowling Green any cut of the game's ticket sales.
- Either party would have paid a $500,000 penalty for no-showing for the game.
- The entire series contract fits to an ACC letterform, suggesting Maryland's deals with other schools are (or were) similar in scope and structure, if not in financial detail.
Contract specifics notwithstanding, the business being done between Maryland and Bowling Green is not abnormal in major college football. In fact, Maryland's paying out a lot less than some of the sport's biggest programs early this season
Pay for play guarantee college FB games tomorrow, in order of payout pic.twitter.com/4329AGuCXC— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 5, 2015
Just a week before it took $400,000 from Maryland, Bowling Green earned $1.2 million to lose, 59-30, at Tennessee.
On some level, Maryland's payment to Bowling Green is actually a pittance. Plenty of other schools not known for being football giants have paid out higher sums: Pitt and Texas Tech respectively spent $420,000 and $450,000 to cruise past Youngstown State and Sam Houston State in their season openers this fall. On opening weekend in 2014, teams spent at least $12.9 million in guarantees.
Maryland may have been able to schedule Bowling Green at a cut rate (33 percent of what the Falcons earned to play Tennessee) by agreeing to a three-game slate. It is likely Maryland further lowered its costs by agreeing to travel to Bowling Green for its own six-figure (albeit smaller) payout in 2018.
How much Maryland makes in revenues to host a team like Bowling Green isn't certain. It's likely well more than $400,000, but how high that figure goes depends heavily on ticket sales and concession revenue. Attendance was announced at 36,332 for the Sept. 12 game. Byrd Stadium's football capacity is just under 52,000.
At least in the Big Ten, the paycheck game practice will decline a bit when league commissioner Jim Delany institutes a ban starting next year on the scheduling of FCS opponents, except those already contracted to play Big Ten teams. That means Maryland, for instance, will still play Howard and Towson in the next two years. The league will also begin to play a nine-game conference schedule, eliminating one payout game from the current format.
It can't be stressed enough that most documents of this nature between public institutions are public record and subject to state and federal open-records laws. Consistent with this point, you can file for records with Maryland here.