DeKALB – Northern Illinois Director of Athletics Jeff Compher anticipated an expensive tab for the NIU football team’s trip to Toronto for the Jan. 2 International Bowl.
Attempts to limit costs were made, but NIU still ended up with deficit of $271,152 from the International Bowl trip, up $117,027 from the previous season’s trip to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
The expenses for the International Bowl deficit will be covered by internal athletic department funds, Compher said Wednesday.
“I feel like we did a very good job of controlling our costs and keeping to a point where we concentrated on things where we focused on the things that are most important,” Compher said, “which are the student-athlete experience and celebrating our accomplishments with our football team.
“I think we did a very good job. We tried to keep our expenses down. We were trying not to be extravagant. But you have to go and stay for a certain amount of time.”
University spokesman Brad Hoey said the deficit does not affect the school’s general budget fund. He noted that all expenses for the university are “very much on the mind” of NIU President John Peters, given the tough budget situation the state is in. NIU is owed more than $60 million from the state.
“Any expenditure would have to come into the minds of our administration when they are looking at the situation with the budget,” Hoey said, noting schools throughout the state and country are facing the same financial problems.
NIU received two sources of revenue for the bowl. One was ticket revenue, which the athletic department was allowed to keep all of and didn’t incur an extra major expense of having to buy an allotment of tickets before the game. For the 2008 Independence Bowl, NIU had to spend $420,620 on 12,000 tickets. That type of expense wasn’t required by the International Bowl. NIU sold 960 tickets for the International Bowl, resulting in $29,040 in ticket revenue.
Compher said the requirement of a passport to get into Canada likely held some people back from buying a ticket, though he said the athletic department did a much better job this season of getting the word out about bowl opportunities than the previous season.
“I think the date affected people, too. I don’t think people were expecting that,” Compher said. “Even though we put it out there as a possibility, I think people were banking on the other December games as more likely destinations. A lot of people didn’t have passports and couldn’t go, or had plans for New Year’s that wouldn’t allow them go either.”
The other source of revenue was negotiated by the Mid-American Conference, a $200,000 payout for appearing in the bowl, which NIU lost to South Florida, 27-3.
“I think that the deals they’ve made are good deals, given the opportunities that they have for us,” Compher said. “I think they’re constantly evaluating other options that are out there for us. I think knowing what the costs are and what the MAC has done and what we do as an institution, I think it’s fair.”
Because the bowl is affiliated with the MAC, that payout number was fixed and schools involved in the bowl can’t negotiate a new one.
“I think the MAC is trying to do that,” Hoey said when asked if the MAC should do more to negotiate a bigger payout for its bowl teams. “But again, look at the environment we are in. With the economy, it’s hard to negotiate a bigger payout.”
NIU tried to limit costs for a bowl before it even knew where it was headed. The athletic department bought passports in September, knowing the International Bowl was a possibility.
“Luckily we were prudent enough to buy them early,” Compher said. “We bought them in September, so we were able to get them in advance, which helped on some of those expedited costs that some others had to pay. We were out in front of that cost.”
The team also didn’t stay the night of Jan. 2 in Toronto and instead flew back home the day of the game. Instead of renting a copy machine or being charged a fixed amount per copy it made in Toronto, NIU bought a copy machine and brought it back to DeKalb, which Compher said actually saved money.
The biggest expense was in travel, which includes the charter flights to Toronto, rooms at the team hotel, on-site transportation, meals and allowable per diems given to the players. That total was $255,434.
“We looked at every cost and tried to reduce or eliminate where we could, but not taking anything away from the student-athletes’ experience or the coaches because it does so much in exposing our university,” Compher said.
NIU spent $116,550 before it even left DeKalb. That number includes room and board in the dorms for players from Dec. 12-Dec. 27 and rental of the DeKalb Sports and Recreation Center for practice. NIU has now lost a combined $425,277 in back-to-back bowl trips after reporting a loss of $154,125 for the 2008 Independence Bowl. The Huskies lost both games.
• Shaw Suburban Media’s Kate Schott contributed to this report.