MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia University football program lost $217,700 on its Orange Bowl trip, but athletic department officials say they worked hard to hold down the figure in light of a massive reimbursement expense for unsold tickets.
"We obviously planned for the worst and really worked our tails off to minimize our expenses on this trip, which was a very expensive trip, and we really did a good job of that," said Mike Parsons, deputy athletic director.
"Some costs didn't come out as high as we had planned, and we were careful to manage our expenses in some other areas."
It's the third time in the past five years the Mountaineers have lost money on a bowl trip. The net loss for the five years is $805,568, but the damage could have been worse.
WVU sold only 7,763 tickets for the game, meaning it had to pay for the remaining 9,737 allocated tickets that cost between $75 and $225.
The tickets either went unsold or were given to coaches, players, the marching band and the travel party.
The school also brokered a deal to give tickets to active and former members of the military and their families.
That cost came to nearly $1.2 million.
WVU took a $1 million ticket loss for the January 2008 Fiesta Bowl and ended up with a net loss of $1 million for the entire trip.
The Mountaineers managed the situation much better in their first Bowl Championship Series appearance since then.
"You never like to lose money in these situations, but under the current structure, if you look at historical comparisons, you almost go into a bowl thinking, 'OK, how can we make this as little of a loss as possible?' " said Alex Hammond, director of football operations.
"There are certain guarantees built into bowl games that make it very difficult to come out in the black, especially this year given the date of the game and the day of the week and the kind of guarantees we had to deal with, like how long we had to be there. That made it very difficult.
"Even with a fan base that travels as well as we do, we knew we were likely looking at a significant loss."
WVU lost $13,789 on the December 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl and then made $332,543 on the Gator Bowl after the following season. In 2010, WVU made $144,750 on the Champs Sports Bowl.
The Mountaineers were more fortunate with each of those three games. The Car Care Bowl was on a Saturday and two days after Christmas in Charlotte, N.C.
The January 2010 Gator Bowl was in Jacksonville, Fla., which has been a popular spot for WVU through the years. That year, the New Year's Day game was on a Friday. The 2010 Champs Sports bowl was in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 28.
Neither of those games allocated the same number of tickets as the Orange Bowl did. WVU was handed 17,500 for the BCS game, which this year was on a Wednesday three days after New Year's Day in Miami Gardens, Fla.
"It all comes back to if we were able to sell more tickets, we would have been in the black," Parsons said.