Tennessee pays Griz $500K to play

2011-08-30T10:00:00Z 2011-08-30T10:04:48Z Tennessee pays Griz $500K to playBy FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian missoulian.com
August 30, 2011 10:00 am  • 

That's still a lot of money.

The payoff for the Tennessee football game this Saturday is $500,000 for the University of Montana, which is a bit less than the $650,000 collected for the Iowa game in 2006.

There are reasons for that.

"The situation with Iowa was very unique," Montana athletic director Jim O'Day noted, adding that it came about after the NCAA made a January ruling that Bowl Championship teams could add a 12th game.

"Teams were scrambling," O'Day said. "Plus they knew the only way we could do it was if we paid off our guarantee with another school (Central Washington)."

The Tennessee game will be a quick trip for the Grizzlies, who head down Friday and back after the game, which kicks off at 4 p.m. Mountain time.

O'Day said the athletic department will clear about the same amount of money - roughly $350,000 - after expenses as it would for a home game.

The Grizzlies will spend the difference by sending 70 players plus coaches and support staff to Knoxville.

"It's probably a wash," O'Day said. "But my philosophy is I like to see our team, every 3 to 4 to 5 years, play a marquee game like this.

"We have so many kids on our roster who are from Montana, and they'll really remember a trip to Oregon or Iowa or Knoxville, Tenn."

O'Day said he'd hoped originally for a game with a Pac-12 opponent like Oregon, which hosted the Griz in 2005.

"We would've liked that but the opportunities weren't there," he said. "We are looking... but the earliest that will happen is probably 2017.

"That could change, with these conference realignments that are possible, but these teams have a pretty good idea of what their schedules are going to be."

That would leave a half-dozen years between games against college football's highest level. But O'Day notes the Grizzlies have some big FCS series in the meantime: They play Appalachian State in 2012-13, North Dakota State in 2014-15 and McNeese State in 2016-17.

The Montana-Tennessee game is on ESPN GamePlan, and it appears fans can order the single game as well - at least you can through Dish Network.

It won't be cheap: $35 for the single game through Dish, $115 for ESPN's GamePlan. The game is also being shown via ESPN3 for internet subscribers.

Attempts to find listings from Optimum, the company that took over for Bresnan Communications, were less successful.

Efforts to get a local feed to Montana from the University of Tennessee didn't come close to takeoff, O'Day said Monday.

"Not very close at all," he said. "That's why they're making $25-30 million per school in the SEC and we're making $64,000. They have a formula set up to collect revenue, and this is a typical example of what happens in a Bowl Coalition conference.

"It's unfortunate, but that's the direction television is going. It's nothing new to conferences at that level."

The Southeastern Conference, which with LSU, Florida, Alabama and Auburn, has had the last five BCS champions, has television contracts with ESPN and CBS totaling $3.075 billion over 15 years.

The rest of Montana's games will be shown live locally on either KPAX-TV and its MTN affiliates (Big Sky Conference games) or CW-TV (non-league games against Cal Poly Sept. 10 and Western Oregon on Nov. 8).

QUICK KICKS: One of Tennessee's top 2011 recruits, safety Pat Martin, has left the program and will transfer, Vols coach Derek Dooley confirmed Monday. ... Tennessee's depth chart, released Monday, boasts underclassmen starting at six positions on defense and eight on offense. That includes sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray. ... UM has three underclassmen starters: Sophomore guards William Poehls and Danny Kistler, along with possibly quarterback Jordan Johnson.

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