Amid the stacked and aligned purple steel containers in Hec Edmundson Pavilion were two smaller, softer oddities.
A piece of masking tape went up the cushioned side, covering the bears. Scrawled in black marker on the tape is “Sarkisian.” Head coach Steve Sarkisian is a bit large for this traveling piece. The booster seat on top of the other football equipment will make the San Diego jaunt just the same.
The families of Washington coaches, the band, support staff, university president and others within the program will make up the 500-plus person entourage heading to the Holiday Bowl under the university’s allotted expense budget of $1,093,100 for the bowl.
People not traveling under the school’s charter? Donors. According to Washington senior associate athletic director O.D. Vincent, the Huskies are trying to keep to the budget.
“There isn’t anything bowl-related coming out of our bowl budget for Tyee or Big W,” Vincent said.
That’s important for an athletic department dealing with financial issues. Should Washington break even, it keeps the school from likely dipping into the general athletics fund. That has happened to other schools in the past which have actually lost money by going to a bowl game.
The Pac-10’s revenue sharing model goes beyond just the bowl payout. In Washington’s case, it will receive $2.2 million for participating in the Holiday Bowl. That goes into the kitty with the other bowl payouts Oregon, Stanford and Arizona will receive. The total is divided and shared equally in the conference. The better and more bowls teams make, the more money for all.
If there are leftovers from the expense budget, say Washington does not spend $100,00 of it, that money is divided equally among the conference members. There is no incentive for any school to do that. Though officials say Washington is not about to embark on a trip of extravagance.
“I’m not going to say bare bones, but when you compare it to how other schools travel it is absolutely as tight as possible to make it within our bowl budget,” Vincent said.
Another way Washington is breaking even is through ticket sales. As of Tuesday, less than 100 of the school’s 11,000-seat allotment remained. That’s not the case for Nebraska. According to USA Today, the Huskers have sold less than 7,500 of the 11,000 tickets. That puts them in an approximate $210,000 hole because the teams are contractually obligated to buy unsold seats in their allotment.
Boosters will roll themselves to San Diego for the week. Once there, they will be invited to fundraisers. Interim school president Phyllis Wise will partake in an official party put together by upper campus and have a “prominent role both with Holiday Bowl functions and with donors,” according to athletic director Scott Woodward.
Part of the cost began prior to the Huskies departing, which they do on Dec. 23 for the Dec. 30 game. Players who live in dorms spent three days in hotels in order to attend practice while school was out. Washington had to pay meal costs during that period, as well.
To clarify a common misnomer, the expense budget for the bowl and athletic budget as a whole, has no bearing on teacher salaries or other moves at the institution. They are separate.
The alumni association will hold events in San Diego, upward of 8,000 Tyee members live in Los Angeles alone, and the Huskies’ staff will be trying to shake out cash. The first bowl in eight years would appear to be welcomed fertilizer for the money tree, yet Woodward said fundraising has been consistent.
“Our donors have been very generous even despite a down trend in our football program over the past decade,” Woodward said. “Over the past decade, our donors have stepped up to the tune of almost over $100 million to fund most of our capital needs.”
The players are assured the game will have a nice ring to it. The NCAA allows “bowl gifts” valued up to $350 for players. The Washington players will receive a ring that is designed with input from the seniors as their bowl gift. The rings are expected to be delivered between mid-January and early February.
In all, Washington is working to break even and pleased with the return to late December play.
“The bowl game is a celebration of a good season and especially for us, it’s been such a long time since we’ve been in a bowl, it’s a real celebration,” Woodward said.