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Allen: On-field success will bolster financial position (Jan. 3)

Chris Allen | Thursday, January 3, 2013

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – If any point has been underscored by the massive upheaval in college football over the past couple of seasons, it is the simple fact that college football and money are joined at the hip.

They are inseparable. Conference realignments, new playoff scenarios and massive TV deals all get boiled down to the bottom line. Which is why Notre Dame’s dream 2012 season couldn’t have come at a better time financially.

Beyond wins and losses, Notre Dame is set to see significant impacts on the bottom line both immediately and stemming well into the future.

The impacts in 2012 are easy to see. Under the current agreement with the BCS, Notre Dame will receive a $6.2 million payout for its appearance in the BCS National Championship Game on Monday. Just the sheer magnitude of the increased bowl payout over lesser bowls is enough to raise eyebrows. The combined payouts of the Russell Athletic Bowl – the bowl Notre Dame participated in last season as the Champs Sports Bowl – total $4.55 million, a figure of which Notre Dame would have received just a fraction.

Aside from the bowl payout, the increased visibility arising from a 12-0 season and countless primetime games back in the national spotlight has likely already had numerous effects. Though the University does not officially disclose trends in its donation totals, when Notre Dame’s football program is winning games and cranking up the powerful hype machine that accompanies it, donations are sure to roll in.

Merchandise sales will also benefit well into the offseason, as they already have from the glut of BCS National Championship and undefeated season-related apparel and souvenirs. If the Irish are victorious Monday, it is hard not to imagine the resulting rush of merchandise purchases will usher in one of the busiest periods of sales in decades for the Notre Dame merchandise catalog. That momentum will snowball into the spring unveiling of the next installment of “The Shirt.”

Though the past four months have been an economic boon for the University, the true impact of 12-0 will be felt in years to come. The revenue from television for the 2012 season was stipulated by an agreement signed in 2008 governing the 2011-2015 seasons. But when the Notre Dame powers that be sit down at the bargaining table with NBC to dictate terms for the 2016 season and beyond, they will point to an irrefutably strong season of television ratings. The 2012 season was the most-watched season of Notre Dame football on NBC since 2005, with games against Michigan and Pittsburgh drawing in 6.4 and 6.1 million viewers, respectively. Though it aired on ABC, the season finale against USC drew a whopping 10.3 overnight rating, the highest such rating of the season. Now that the program has returned to the national elite, Notre Dame can be more aggressive in negotiating a favorable television deal while showcasing its brand through Fighting Irish Digital Media.

However, the most important financial move of the season occurred September 12, as Notre Dame secured a move in all non-football sports to the ACC. The move, which partially aligns the football program with the ACC and a commitment to play five ACC teams per season, essentially ensured Notre Dame would have a path to national championships once the new playoff system is initiated in 2014. The indirect financial effects of this move to preserve the prestige of Notre Dame football cannot be quantified. What can be quantified is an immediate improvement in bowl payouts.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported Thursday that Notre Dame would receive $13.75 million for an Orange Bowl appearance under its new agreement with the ACC. This enormous figure is more than double the payout it is receiving for a national championship berth in 2012. The move to the ACC ensured Notre Dame’s economic clout in the new-look college football landscape.

2012 was a banner year for wins and losses in the Notre Dame football program. But its permanent impact will be dollars and cents.

Contact Chris Allen at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.