Through open records requests, ESPN has learned that ten Big Ten schools rank in the top 25 in terms of paying opponents. Ohio State tops the list, spending an average of $7.4 million a season in all sports to visiting teams. Of course, a huge part of this is football, and specifically non-conference opponents. This upcoming season alone, Ohio State will spend over $2 million to bring Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, and Kent State to the horseshoe.
A lot of money? Yep. But Big Ten schools pay a lot of money because home games bring in even more money. It had better, with three stadiums that seat over 100,000 fans. Most schools make well over $3 million for a home game; Nebraska reportedly makes over $5 million. So it's really not a question of what you pay, it's what you get in return. Last year, Nebraska bought back a road game from Southern Miss for $2 million, and still turned a huge profit for the game.
So when you discuss the idea of playing ten conference football games, with five home games and five away games, you pretty much have to acknowledge that those other two games will be have to be home games, because of the positive revenue that home games generate. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez admits it, as such, when he talked to ESPN about the current plan to move to nine conference games:
"You try to stay at seven games at home, it's very difficult to do that in the year that you have four Big Ten games at home. So there are some issues."
Want better schedules? It's clear that as long as ticket revenue is the overriding factor, Big Ten teams are going to be extremely selective when considering playing games away from home. That, in turn, means the "body bag" money games aren't going away until teams get a financial incentive to play better opponents on the road.