First of all, let's be clear: The Gophers aren't complaining. The Big Ten's share-and-share-alike ethos benefits them more than virtually any other school. Minnesota has never played in a BCS bowl but cashes the same hefty check from the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta bowls every year that its Big Ten brethren do.
That said: Jim Tressel might cost the Gophers a few hundred thousand dollars out of next year's cash flow.
Tressel is the former Ohio State coach, by all accounts a great coach and a good man, but one whose lapse in judgment two years ago, in deciding to deceive the NCAA about his knowledge of potential rules violations by quarterback Terrelle Pryor and five other players, cost him his job.
The scandal also got Ohio State banned from the postseason this year, a penalty that might trickle down to the 11 other Big Ten members. The conference has had a mediocre season on the field -- everywhere but in Columbus. And with the Buckeyes unable to play in January, it appears nearly certain that the Big Ten's BCS involvement will be limited to the Rose Bowl.
That will end a seven-year streak of sending two teams to the big-money bowl games. In fact, in the 14-year history of the BCS, only three times has a Big Ten team failed to grab an at-large berth.
And those second games are lucrative. Each of the six BCS conferences is guaranteed a certain share of bowl revenue for its automatic selection; last season, Wisconsin earned $22.25 million, minus expenses, by playing Oregon in the Rose Bowl, a jackpot that the Big Ten split equally. Conferences get only a fraction of that payout for an at-large berth, but the money still dwarfs the checks that the other bowls write. Last season, according to the Big Ten, Michigan was paid $6.1 million for meeting Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
That money is pooled with the proceeds of all other bowl games -- 10 Big Ten teams played in the postseason last year, bringing in nearly $48 million before expenses -- and split 12 ways. The result? "We took in about $2.6 million as our share of the bowl payouts last year," said Tom McGinnis, associate athletic director and chief financial officer of Gophers athletics. But that $48 million pool could be $8 million to $10 million smaller this year.
It's possible only six Big Ten teams will go to a bowl game. Ohio State is out, and for the next four years so is Penn State, a penalty imposed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Only four teams are eligible yet; Minnesota and Michigan State need one more victory to reach the necessary six, while Iowa and Indiana need two more wins.
The Gophers, should they win one more game, are most often projected to play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston's Reliant Stadium on Dec. 28 against a Big 12 opponent.
Failing to send a team to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which pays out an estimated $1.1 million, or the Little Caesar's Bowl, which brings in roughly $800,000, won't affect the bottom line. But Ohio State would be on pace to draw an at-large berth, and another big check.
No second BCS game "would probably mean about $300,000 less revenue coming in this year," said McGinnis, who receives word from the Big Ten in February about what each school can expect to receive. "But we don't budget for that money. We treat it as a surplus if it happens, because we can't count on it."