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USC's Upset Loss: Why It Means Money To Both Schools

Friday, 26 Sep 2008 | 11:13 AM ET
USC football
Trent Bigelow
USC football

It's the story I consider every time a goliath in college football goes down. How much did the loss cost them and maybe their conference?

I've been doing some math this morning in light of USC's 27-21 loss to Oregon State last night and I've come up with a shocker.

USC and Oregon State might have MADE money for themselves with the upset.

Here's my work:

1. The biggest chunk of change on the line is $4.5 million that a conference gets if it has a team that is selected as a BCS at-large. I spoke to ESPN college football number cruncher Brad Edwards and he agreed with my assessment that it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Pac-10 wasn't going to get that at-large. It's not exactly rocket science given that there isn't another team from the conference in the Top 25. So forget about that.

2. Now let's assume--since you have to make assumptions--that USC runs the table, but doesn't make it to the BCS title game. That means they'd be slotted into the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is part of the BCS system of course, but they run their own budget and are financially separate. In past years, the Rose Bowl has actually paid out more than the other BCS games. So if the number crunchers in USC's athletic department could pick a game to go to on appearance fee alone, it would likely be the Rose Bowl.

3. Sure, you say, there are big financial rewards for winning. But when you already have the program that USC has, the rewards aren't as great. The season is already sold out and licensing revenues are sky high. So let me throw out the final factor, which leads me to believe that USC might have made out better: Travel. You can bet USC's traveling party is big and it was going to be pretty expensive to take all the important figures all the way across the country to Miami for the title game. In fact, the spend to do that might negate much or all of the individual team bonus. Rose Bowl? Where do you park your car?

4. The team that needed the financial bump here was Oregon State and they could get it now. Unlike USC, Oregon State still had some 2,000 tickets available to Thursday night's game on Tuesday.

USC's biggest loss might actually be incalculable in that it might take a hit in recruiting. A top prep star is always wooed by a team that is in the hunt or wins the national championship.

Another loser? Perhaps the scalpers and brokers who count on USC-Notre Dame every year.

Last year, the average seat to that game on StubHub sold for $409, up from $379 the year before.

This year had big potential, with the game being played on Thanksgiving weekend. But with Notre Dame not exactly looking like a championship team and USC now defeated, the general fan that drives up the price to that game, may now be out.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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