The College Football Playoff has set the payments it will make to conferences for their participation in the sport’s most important postseason games, and despite the disruption of the COVD-19 pandemic, which has dramatically altered ticket sales and sponsorship agreements, the payouts will be largely unchanged from last season’s numbers.
Since the CFP’s creation in 2014, conferences have received $6 million for each team they placed in the semifinals, and $4 million for each team selected for the Cotton, Fiesta or Peach Bowls if they’re not a semifinal. Those payments will remain identical this year.
The one change is for travel expenses. The CFP last year distributed $2.43 million to each school playing in a semifinal, final or those other three bowls. This year that will be reduced by $400,000 to $2.03 million.
A CFP spokesman said the reduction was made because most teams are only planning two-day trips as a pandemic precaution, as opposed to nearly weeklong trips in years past.
Because of the specific rotation of games, the total participation payout will actually jump this year, from $51.4 million last season to $72.4 million this season.
These payouts are just a portion of the roughly $500 million that the CFP typically distributes to conferences and schools each year. The biggest payments, base amounts given annually to the 10 conferences in college football’s top tier, are expected to drop 10-15% this year because of the pandemic, CFP executive director Bill Hancock said last month in an interview. A final tally on those distributions is expected after the playoffs are complete.
The CFP makes the bulk of its money from a 12-year, $7.3 billion deal it signed with ESPN in 2015. That deal covers both live broadcast rights and many big-ticket sponsorship rights. Ticket sales typically make up between 5% and 10% of the CFP’s overall revenue.
This year’s semifinalists are Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State, which was a controversial addition because it played five fewer games than the other three. The Big Ten also altered its pre-season rules to increase the Buckeyes’ chances of making the playoff.