Despite a five-figure shortfall from hosting three games in the CollegeInsider.com tournament, Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig and coach Blaine Taylor believe it was a positive experience for the program, the school and its fans.
Selig estimated Thursday that the ODU athletic department must pay approximately $45,000 in guarantees to CIT organizers and in game-day expenses at both the Constant Center and the Norfolk Scope, where one game was held.
"We analyzed our financial positions before we put in our requests to host these various rounds and understood that we could be at risk, financially," Selig said. "We knew that we could absorb some loss. Obviously, we wished it had not been as significant, but we knew we could handle some loss in hosting this event."
Selig said that revenue from both men's basketball and football had increased from last season, as have athletic donations overall. Those increases, he said, will help defray costs of hosting tournament games.
The 32-team CIT requires a $30,000 guarantee for hosting each round. Game-day expenses are approximately $10,000, bringing the three-game total to $120,000. Selig said that ODU generated roughly $75,000 from its tournament participation.
ODU officials estimated that they needed to sell 4,000 tickets each game in order to break even. They sold discounted $10 general admission tickets for each game. The Monarchs' first game against Coastal Carolina drew about 2,000 people, as did the second game against USC Upstate at Scope — the Constant Center was unavailable due to the NCAA women's tournament. ODU's quarterfinal loss to Mercer drew 3,400.
"I think there are a number of positives," Selig said. "One, it shows a commitment by the athletic department to the coaches and student-athletes, that we're going to continue their season and put them in position to win a postseason championship. It also involves the growth and development of our team, in particular those underclassmen who will be back. I think many who followed and watched the tournament caught a positive glimpse of what our future can be with some of the youngsters who will be returning, so I think that's very positive.
"I would hope it might translate to enhanced sales, a better renewal rate when it comes to season ticket purchases next fall."
Had ODU defeated Mercer on Wednesday, the Monarchs would have hosted a semifinal game Sunday. One more home game might have increased the athletic department's expenses, had they again not sold at least 4,000 tickets.
"I think what people have a preoccupation with is, they look at numbers and they look at money," Taylor said. "I don't think that's what this is about. If they did, we wouldn't even have college athletics. I mean, a lot of sports are played in front of nobody and all of them cost money.
"The essence of what we did here was we re-invested in our success. The program is of vital importance on our campus because of the Ted, because of the economic impact that we have on this campus. This tournament was a re-investment in our success and our program."
ODU has appeared in postseason for eight consecutive years — four NCAA tournaments, one NIT, two CITs and one appearance in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Both the CBI and CIT are pay-to-host tournaments.
Selig, Taylor and many within college basketball believe that there's room for postseason tournaments beyond the NCAA and NIT. Those two have 100 teams, less than one-third of the Division I total of 338 teams.
"There's definitely room and there's definitely an incentive to reward teams that have good seasons beyond those 100 teams," Selig said. Though he added that paying five-figure guarantees to tournament organizers and outside middlemen is "a frustrating financial model for the participants. I can't help but think there might be a better way."
Selig said he has batted around the idea of the 31 Division I conferences administering their own postseason tournament. For example, a 32-team event that takes each conference's highest-rated team that doesn't make the NCAA or NIT and adding one wild-card entry. Each league kicks in approximately $10-15,000 for expenses and a host team's league administers the game. Such a model would mean that less money goes to outsiders and remains within the schools and their conferences.
"There's no financial burden back to the participating institution," he said. "It's shouldered by the conference from which these schools are represented. What you have is a very vibrant, 32-team, all-inclusive postseason tournament for a fraction of the cost and with considerably more interest."
ODU's aim always will be the NCAA tournament and, after that, the NIT. But school officials will continue to consider other postseason avenues, whatever form they take and whatever the cost.
"I think it was definitely a positive experience," Selig said. "Fans who attended really got into it. I heard people say that they were able to go to the club (seating) level. They experienced seating locations that they've never had before, or it was their first time. I think from an exposure standpoint, it was a real plus. From an experience standpoint, it was a real plus. From a financial standpoint, it left a little to be desired, but we knew all the risks that were in play as we entered into the agreement."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times