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January 8, 1998

Liberty Bowl no financial windfall for University

If you're a Pittsburgh Panthers fan who was counting on the University reaping a financial windfall from the Liberty Bowl — thus taking some of the sting out of that 41-7 loss — think again.

Pitt received $1.3 million for playing in the Dec. 31 game, but that money was what's known as an expense allotment. It's meant to cover travel costs for players, coaches, band members and other University personnel, in addition to subsidizing tickets for students and paying other game-related expenses.

Any money left over after those expenses have been covered will go to the Department of Athletics to help defray the department's operating costs, Pitt Director of Athletics Steve Pederson said.

"The reason the Big East Conference gives you an expense allotment [for playing in the Liberty Bowl] is to cover your expenses. It's not a profit allotment," Pederson said.

And compared with the Orange Bowl, the Rose Bowl and other big-time Bowl Alliance games (which pay expense allotments of up to $8 million per team), the Liberty Bowl is "a minimum payout bowl," as Pederson called it.

Like most NCAA Division IA conferences, the Big East spreads most of its bowl game revenue among its member schools, whether or not they play in a post-season game. In addition to its $1.3 million Liberty Bowl expense allotment, Pitt's athletics department will get $600,000 this year through the Big East revenue-sharing plan, the same amount that other conference members will receive.

If the Athletics department were running at a profit or at least breaking even, leftover money from Pitt's Liberty Bowl expense allotment could be allocated elsewhere within the University. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Hillman Library received hundreds of thousands of dollars thanks to the Panthers' appearances in major bowl games.

"I certainly hope that somewhere down the road we'll be able to do that [turn over excess bowl game money to the central administration] but we're not in that position by any means right now," Pederson said.

Depending on the formula used to calculate revenues and expenses, Pitt's athletics program cost the University either $4.9 million or $8 million more than the program generated during the 1995-96 fiscal year, Athletics department administrators told the University Planning and Budgeting Committee (UPBC) and the University Senate budget policies committee last winter.

The Athletics department would not provide FY 1996-97 budget figures to the University Times this week.

Joseph Phillips, associate athletics director for Administration, said the department will not release the figures publicly until it has reviewed them with UPBC and the University Senate committee. Neither group has asked to see the data yet, Phillips said.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 30 Issue 9

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