Notre Dame and Providence view the Binghamton men’s basketball team as a cash cow.
The two schools assembled a $90,000 guarantee package to entice BU to visit during the campus rounds of the 2014 Hall of Fame Tipoff. The Bearcats, who will open their season at Notre Dame on Nov. 14 before playing at Providence on Nov. 17, receive the money directly from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
According to Athletics Director Patrick Elliott, high-major programs are willing to pay a guaranteed sum of money to their guests because revenue generated from ticket sales, concessions, parking and, in some cases, television, will far outweigh the cost of hosting an opponent.
“They’ve already sold the tickets in their season ticket packages, and what they do is, they’ve got Duke, they’ve got whomever else is coming in,” Elliott said, focusing on Atlantic Coast Conference member Notre Dame. “Binghamton is just another game that people are going to pay for because they want to see those other games.”
As an extra incentive, the host teams in exempt tournaments get an extra NCAA-sanctioned home game. Division I basketball programs can schedule a maximum of 29 regular-season games. If a team participates in an exempt tournament, however, that total jumps to 30.
High-major programs pounce on the opportunity to generate extra revenue. On the other side, revenue earned from guarantee games helps smaller programs reach budget goals.
Elliott said he and BU head coach Tommy Dempsey set a goal for the men’s basketball team to generate $200,000 of income next season. That leaves $110,000 coming from unknown origins, one of which could be Syracuse. A few sources believe the two schools struck a multi-year deal while scheduling a game at the Carrier Dome for last December.
Syracuse paid Binghamton $90,000 for last year’s trip up Interstate 81. Because the athletics department will not announce the men’s basketball team’s full schedule until the summer, next year’s guarantee package — if the next game in the deal will be played in 2014-15 — is not yet known.
Every thousand helps, though it’s all part of the plan.
“We build our expense budget based upon income,” Elliott said. “In effect, it’s not like if we get $90,000 from Syracuse that we’re $90,000 richer. All of these guarantee games that we’ve been playing over time are built into our budget model.”
Based on projected income, each of the University’s teams sets an expenses budget.
In the 2012-13 academic year, BU’s men’s basketball team spent $1.37 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education. Notre Dame, reputed as a football school, spent $5.4 million on its basketball program. Providence doled out $6.1 million, and Syracuse expended $13.8 million.
The discrepancy between BU, a mid-major program, and the high-majors is blatant. BU covets the money, and the high-majors can supply it.
Because games against the Bearcats have been virtual locks for victories in recent years, BU has been a desirable opponent for high-majors in early season tournaments.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve gotten a lot of calls,” Elliott said. “We’ve been, over the last couple of years, attractive to some of these tournaments for obvious reasons.”
Elliott said he and Dempsey had always planned on accepting a tournament invitation in the head coach’s third year. The Bearcats won three games in 2012-13, Dempsey’s first season on campus, before registering seven victories this past year.
Now, Dempsey has promised that the 2014-15 Bearcats will play at a consistently fast pace because they have the pieces to do so. This team, from a style standpoint, should resemble Dempsey’s squads while he was at Rider.
“These are games that are always obviously difficult, but we expect every game to be competitive,” Elliott said. “We just felt that this was a better time, once Tommy was able to get a couple of his recruiting classes in.”
The toughest of the competition will be the two road games against Notre Dame and defending Big East champion Providence, but the Bearcats will also face Manhattan and either Navy or Northeastern when the Hall of Fame Tipoff moves to Mohegan Sun the weekend of Nov. 21.
“The thinking is that everybody’s able to play a combination of mid- to high-major games and games within their common conferences, if you will,” said Greg Procino, the Hall of Fame’s director of events and awards.
Mid-majors always face high-majors in the campus rounds and fellow mid-majors at the destination site, according to Procino. To match mid-majors with high-majors, Procino said the Hall of Fame employs a first-come, first-served preference system.
“In the case of Binghamton, I believe they were the second or third team in the field,” Procino said. “They were interested in Notre Dame from the get-go.”
And though the guarantee money played a role in BU’s entry to the tournament, games against Notre Dame and trips to Mohegan Sun serve as recruiting tools as well. High school players see that BU is committed to playing top-notch competition, exposing the Bearcats to a national audience.
“There’s an element of representing the University, of branding,” Elliott said. “We want to be able to travel across the country and represent the University.”