Posted by Adam Jacobi
Next year, Michigan is set to play Alabama at Dallas' landmark Cowboys Stadium, a state-of-the-art facility that is home to the Dallas Cowboys on Sundays and routinely hosts college football games at other times -- both in the regular season and in the Cotton Bowl every January.
That much is well-known.
Now, according to documents obtained by AnnArbor.com, we find out that one of the prime benefits to Michigan agreeing to that game is a $4.7 million paycheck:
According to a contract among ESPN, the Cowboys Stadium and the University of Michigan, the game will take place on Sept. 1, 2012. AnnArbor.com obtained the contract through a Freedom of Information Act request.
In addition to $4.7 million, U-M will receive 200 tickets, two luxury boxes and one field-level suite. The U-M marching band will receive free entry and reserved seating. U-M cheerleaders, dance team and mascots will also receive free entry.
Officials will provide approximately 25,000 tickets for Michigan to sell.
This is the mother of all sweetheart deals, basically, and if AD Dave Brandon had declined the offer he would have deserved to be thrown into Lake Michigan. Here are the four things the deal has going for it:
1) It's like a major bowl game, with that kind of payout. The $4.7 million paycheck for Michigan is thrilling, because it's basically the most money anybody not running a BCS bowl is giving out for one football game. Currently, the biggest non-BCS payout in college football is $4.6 million, courtesy of the Capital One Bowl (no big surprise there), but even that's understating the importance of this payout, because...
2) It's not a bowl game, so there's no bowl revenue sharing. Sharing may be caring, but greed greases the wheels of capitalism, and for Michigan to be able to keep all $4.7 million of its payout from the Alabama game is a huge deal. So yes, it's better than a typical bowl game, but more than that...
3) It's not the bowl game, so Michigan can still have one of those at the end of the year anyway. Remember, this is a season opener, so it doesn't replace anything about Michigan's postseason options. It's just basically a huge bonus that doesn't upset anything about the normal schedule of a season. Also...
4) It includes guarantees that bowl games just don't offer. Bowl games offer payouts, but they generally come with significant revenue-sapping restrictions; band members' seats have to be paid for, for example. Not so here, with all of the tertiary members of the football program (band, cheerleaders, etc.) getting free entry, plus an extra 200 seats. Y'know, for whoever. Pretty sweet.
Now, it's also worth noting that for as road games go, this is a mammoth payout, but it's not going to be enough to convince Michigan to do this instead of hold home games very often; keep in mind that from ticket sales alone, Michigan gets about that much from every home game, and that doesn't even factor in concessions, parking, and every other revenue generator centered around Game Day in Ann Arbor. So it's not really in Michigan's best interests to start looking away from the Big House very often, especially in seasons like 2012 when it "only" has two home games of the three remaining non-conference games (Michigan is at Notre Dame that year).
As "changes of pace" go, though, especially when it comes to putting your program on display in a vast but unusual market, this is just about exactly the way Michigan should do it.