UNLV lost on the field when it played North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
The Rebels, though, won’t take as big a loss financially, or perhaps no loss at all.
“I expect us to break even,” athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said Wednesday. “Was it worth it? Absolutely.”
The Rebels spent an estimated $511,000 on the trip for the New Year’s Day game, and between the bowl payout and tickets sold, got back about $300,000. UNLV’s expense total, though, includes about $103,000 in bonuses paid to coaches for making a bowl.
So if the incentive money is subtracted, UNLV’s athletic department spent approximately $408,000 on the trip, meaning its deficit is closer to $100,000.
The athletic department picked up the expenses for sending the cheerleaders, but the university handled the $80,000 cost to transport and house the band.
Considering the Mountain West has yet to provide financial assistance, the gap for UNLV’s athletic department could be closed once the conference comes through with its payout.
The difficult part is knowing what that amount will be because the Heart of Dallas Bowl was not part of the conference’s postseason-affiliated games. UNLV played in that bowl after a swap with the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas.
Kunzer-Murphy said she will present the school’s case for financial assistance at next month’s conference meetings, which take place during the Mountain West basketball tournaments at the Thomas &Mack Center.
She will not ask the conference to cover the coaches’ bonuses because those payments were not part of the actual bowl costs.
“We sold tickets. We did everything we were supposed to do,” Kunzer-Murphy said. The conference doesn’t “want the institutions to lose money when you go to a bowl game if you abide by the rules and do what you need to do. We weren’t extravagant in anything.”
This was a tricky trip to organize because the team flew commercially on separate flights rather than take a charter, which would have cost about $100,000 more. Players were allowed to return home for the Christmas break, so UNLV flew them from those locations rather than all from Las Vegas.
Flying commercially did incur about $10,000 in baggage fees.
Kunzer-Murphy said she would prefer to fly chartered flights in the future, just as the team does to almost all its regular-season road games, but that would depend on the circumstances.
“We saved so much money by not doing a charter, but the inconvenience of it for everybody and for a football team, it’s a lot of bodies to move,” she said. “We didn’t have a travel agency that worked well with us, so we were doing it on our own.
“It was absolutely crazy, but everybody got home safely.”
Also because of the late date of the Dallas game, UNLV had to spend an additional $24,000 in housing and $15,000 in meals for the practices in Las Vegas that occurred between the end of the fall semester and the bowl trip.
The game itself didn’t go as well as the Rebels hoped. North Texas broke a 7-7 game at halftime and won 36-14.
UNLV, which finished 7-6, was one of seven Mountain West schools that became eligible for six spots. San Jose State, which went 6-6, was left out of the bowl picture.
The conference is considering implementing a rule that all Mountain West teams with winning records be selected to league-affiliated bowls ahead of those that are .500.
“We are looking at drafting a process for who gets selected so that what happened this year doesn’t happen again,” Kunzer-Murphy said.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.