Neutral-site games have become a fixture of college football’s early season. The two biggest contests of 2017’s Week 1 won’t be home games for either team, and they’re just the tip of this year’s neutral-site iceberg. In total, the week has nine such FBS games.
Alabama-Florida State and Michigan-Florida are the biggest, whether you’re talking about stakes or attendance or money. But all of them are at least somewhat appealing games.
The biggest games pay about $5-6 million per team.
The biggest number this year is $6 million each, which goes out to Michigan and Florida for participating in the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium. They get that money from ESPN, which gets it from the stadium.
Alabama-Florida State is a slightly bigger game, but the payout is a notch smaller: $5 million per team. But even that should be enough for both to make a windfall:
Although the Seminoles will sacrifice a home game by playing Alabama at a neutral site, the program will benefit financially. FSU nets about $2.3 million per home game and expects to spend about $275,000 in expenses for the trip to Atlanta. The difference will be about a $2.5 million windfall for the athletic department … not to mention the attention and focus on a game pairing two of the country’s most traditional and successful programs.
In the last few years, Alabama’s played these games for figures between $3 million and $4 million. The payouts at the high end of the spectrum have grown quickly.
In the 2021 version of this same game, sponsored by Chick-fil-A, the guarantee is just over $4 million for Ole Miss. (It hasn’t been disclosed yet for Louisville, the Rebels’ opponent.)
That’s also what LSU’s getting to play BYU this year at the Superdome in New Orleans. That game was previously scheduled to be played in Houston.
Wisconsin got $3 million to host LSU at Lambeau Field last season.
If we’re estimating roughly, it seems like a few hundred thousand dollars per game is the standard takeaway from an FBS true home game. Florida State’s hauling in just more than $2 million on average for its home games, so anything north of those totals in a neutral-site guarantee is easy money.
(Yes, because this is the NCAA, schools don’t give any of that liquid cash to their players.)
But not every neutral-site team makes it that big.
Last year, Boston College played Georgia Tech in Dublin, Ireland. The Eagles were technically the home team and got the lion’s share of the game’s sponsorship money. Georgia Tech got $900,000, which BC said was just to cover lodging and expenses.
An ongoing series between Arizona and BYU, which last year played at the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium in Glendale, is worth around $1 million for each.
Your payout depends on who you are.
If you’re a big draw, you do better. Game organizers like ticket sales, and broadcasters like ratings. Alabama-FSU will always do a better job generating those things than Arizona-BYU, and that’s the reason for the chasm between their payout sizes.