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One Semifinal Team’s Check Will Be Bigger Than The Rest

ATLANTA, GA – DECEMBER 06: Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin prepares for the SEC Championship game against the Missouri Tigers at the Georgia Dome on December 6, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Scott Cunningham Getty Images North America

Alabama, FSU, Ohio State and Oregon will all compete on equal footing on New Year’s Day as the nation’s top four college football teams in 2014. However, they won’t all be taking home the same check for the game.

Along with the new system on the field, the College Football Playoff also brings with it a new revenue distribution model. As was the cases with the Bowl Championship Series, payouts for games are paid to conferences, not directly to the participating teams. That’s very important to remember as you hear about payouts for various bowl games — all bowls send their payouts to the conference, not the team. Each conference then devises its own method of distribution.

Here’s a quick look at the payouts for this year’s College Football Playoff:

Power Five conferences (ACC, Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC):

$50 million base payment each

$6 million for each team selected for a semifinal game

$4 million for each team selected for the Cotton, Fiesta or Peach Bowls

Group of 5 conferences (American, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt):

$60 million base payment to split

$6 million for each team selected for a semifinal game

$4 million for each team selected for Cotton, Fiesta or Peach Bowls

As you can see, the biggest difference between the Power Five and the Group of Five is the base payment. The Power Five receive $50 million each, while the Group of Five divide $60 million among all five conferences pursuant to a formula they devise. This is very similar to how BCS revenue was distributed, except each conference is receiving at least twice as much under the College Football Playoff, with the exception of the American.

Most conferences pool all bowl revenue (including revenue from the College Football Playoff) and distribute it evenly between all of the members in the conference, with some conferences keeping a share for the conference office. With the exception of travel allowances and other expenses to be reimbursed by the conference, the participating teams are given no more than the members of the conference who did not play in a bowl game. This was true for most conferences under the BCS as well.

The SEC, however, does things a little differently.

SEC teams participating in bowl games receive a bonus of sorts (in addition to travel allowance), based on the payout for the game in which they play:

If the bowl payout is…

$1,500,000 or less, the participating institution receives $1,000,000

$1,500,000 — $3,999,999, the participating institution receives $1,275,000

$4,000,000 –€“ 5,999,999, the participating institution receives $1,475,000

$6,000,000 or more, the participating institution receives $2,000,000

Participation in the semifinal game falls under the $2 million bonus, and an additional $2.1 million is awarded if the team goes on to participate in the College Football Playoff championship game.

The ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 all divide bowl revenue equally between member institutions after travel and other allowances and have nothing similar to the SEC bonus structure. That means Alabama will make more money from its participation in the semifinal game than FSU, Oregon or Ohio State, regardless of whether the Crimson Tide wins a single College Football Playoff game.

If you’re interested in how the finances work out for each conference, including the payments made to Notre Dame, BYU, Army, Navy and FCS conferences, check out my conference-by-conference breakdown over on BusinessofCollegeSports.com.

Written by Kristi Dosh