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College Football Playoff Fuels Record Bowl Payout

The college football postseason is making it rain.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the NCAA released a report on the payout from the bowl system for 2014-15. Thanks to the College Football Playoffthe figure went way, way up:

According to an NCAA report released Tuesday, the 39 postseason FBS games distributed $505.9 million to the participating conferences and schools. ...

Total payouts from 35 postseason games from the 2013-14 season were $309.9 million.

The total payout was about about 63% higher. The increase from the second-to-last year of the BCS to the last year of the BCS was $9.1 million, or 3%.

The report had figures on the amount of money schools collectively spent to attend the bowl games. It went from $90.3 million three years ago to $97.8 million two years ago to $100.2 million last year. That the jump in spending from the 2013 season to the 2014 season was larger than from 2012 to 2013 is strange given that 2014 brought four additional bowls over the prior level.

Nevertheless, the sharp increase of postseason money without an accompanying sharp increase of spending on the postseason is a major factor in the large amounts of money being thrown around this offseason. In the SEC alone, several schools either hired or raised coordinators to above the $1 million per year level where they hadn't paid that much before like Texas A&M (John Chavis), Auburn (Will Muschamp), and Georgia (Jeremy Pruitt). LSU had been paying Chavis over $1 million, and his replacement of Kevin Steele will make $1 million. Florida paid $6.3 million to Muschamp to go away and then $5 million to Colorado State to pry Jim McElwain.

Not every conference started spraying the money hose, of course:

"It couldn't have come at a better time," Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said of the 63 percent increase in postseason revenue. "Every athletic department is being challenged with a cost of attendance issue. For there to be a significant spike in football bowl and College Football Playoff money at least gives our athletic directors some breathing rooms with business decisions they need to make."

The cancellation of UAB football may have had some extra politics behind it, but for other programs of modest means and/or high expenses like Idaho or Hawaii, the bump in money might just keep the lights on in those programs for a while longer.

One thing is for sure: the playoff didn't kill the bowl system. Some playoff opponents argued that a tournament would kill the bowl system, and a tournament of a large size might. A four-team tournament certainly hasn't though. We went up to 39 bowls last year, and we could get as high as 43 this year.