With fans still reeling from the football team’s first losing season in 40 years, the question now is how the team’s lackluster performance will impact the Athletic Department’s revenue.

By failing to qualify for a bowl game for the first time in 34 years, Michigan also fails to rake in the money that comes with playing in a postseason contest. Bowl game payouts range from $300,000 per team for smaller bowl games like Papa Johns Bowl up to $17 million per team for BCS games like the Rose Bowl.

The Athletic Department is projected to have a surplus of $10.3 million at the end of the 2008 financial year, but how much money will it lose by the team not making a bowl?

Believe it or not, it might not lose any.

Because of how bowl game payouts work, Michigan’s postseason absence means the University will lose out on some money, but thanks to the success of other Big Ten teams, not that much. When a team is invited to participate in a bowl game, it splits whatever money it makes with the other teams in the conference. In Michigan’s case, that means dividing the revenue 11 different ways.

The more Big Ten teams that make a bowl, the better Michigan does financially. Even though Penn State and Ohio State are the only Big 10 teams in serious contention for BCS game invites, Northwestern, Minnesota and Michigan State are having above-average seasons and could make prominent bowl games, too. Because of that, those schools could offset the approximately $2 million that Michigan has earned each Big Ten school over the past three years.

Last year, the Wolverines played in the Capital One Bowl in Florida, and in 2007 the team lost in the Rose Bowl. Three years ago the team lost in the Alamo Bowl.

Members of the football team might be the biggest losers in the deal. Corporate bowl game sponsors typically give athletes armloads of giveaways, from bookbags and video game consoles to department store gift cards.

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