It’s not cheap to operate the nation’s most dominant football program. A postseason run to play for the 2016 national championship, in fact, cost the University of Alabama considerably more than it generated in revenue.

The UA athletic department spent $2.6 million more on expenses that it took in in revenues during its run through the CFP, according to documents obtained by The Tuscaloosa News through open-records law requests.

Alabama totaled nearly $7 million in expenses – ranging from transportation to lodging, meals, entertainment, bonuses and more – while bringing in more than $4.3 in reimbursements and its payout for the two playoff games.

Click here to see a breakdown of the CFP expenses and revenues: 0507_CFPcharts_Tuscaloosa

Alabama’s direct income from the College Football Playoff games against Washington in the Peach Bowl and versus Clemson in the national title game in Tampa fell far short of the expenses the school incurred, with high costs due to athletic department bonuses and tickets absorbed. It’s the the cost of winning, a cost that Alabama is happy to absorb to keep the well-oiled money machine going.

According to documents obtained by The Tuscaloosa News, Alabama football profited more than $47 million during 2016. Running a $2.6 million deficit for the CFP, while not ideal, isn’t exactly a problem.

“I believe it goes without saying that anytime your program is in the College Football Playoff, it is a good thing,” said first-year Director of Athletics Greg Byrne. “There are obviously added costs associated with playing more games; however, there are a lot of positives that come with that from an exposure and recruiting standpoint, not only for athletics but also for the institution as a whole.”

Alabama paid $1.838 million in bonuses for reaching the CFP, and that doesn’t include just football assistant coaches, although they represent a large amount of the total. Sixty-four athletic department members, including coaches, were awarded bonuses. That amount doesn’t include the $458,423.46 in bonuses from the SEC Championship Game win awarded to the football coaches and select staffers.

UA head coach Nick Saban, per his contract, earned a total of $425,000 in postseason bonuses – $125,000 for winning the SEC championship and $300,000 for playing in the CFP Championship Game.

Click here to see a list of bonuses received by the University of Alabama staff from the SEC Championship Game and the College Football Playoffs: 0507_champBonuses_Tuscaloosa

Alabama remains generous to its employees compared to other top programs. According to a report from, Alabama paid 62 employees a bonus following the 2016 CFP compared to 34 at Clemson, 29 at Michigan State and 11 at Oklahoma.

Of the $6.94 million spent during the two games of the CFP, bonuses represented the second-highest expense behind meals/transportation/per diem, which cost a total of $1.97 million for the two games.

Tickets absorbed totaled the third-largest expense (12.4 percent) at $862,130.The category is slightly misleading. The cost didn’t result from tickets unsold; in fact, quite the opposite. The tickets absorbed – paid for by participating schools – are for players’ guests and families and for comps to UA staff. Those tickets would not otherwise have been made available to the public, and they are not tickets that went unsold from the batch allotted to be sold through UA to its season ticket holders, fans and students.

UA spent more money in Tampa ($2,692,805) than in Atlanta ($2,418,719), despite spending fewer days there.

The main discrepancy in spending between the semifinal and championship game came in tickets absorbed, which cost the athletic department $300,970 more in comped tickets for Tampa than the semifinal game in Atlanta.

Transportation costs were considerably higher for trip of nearly 1,200 round-trip miles to Tampa than for the 400 round-trip miles to Atlanta. The difference totaled $188,914 more in travel expenses.

The team spent $176,738 on entertainment both both trips. One night in Atlanta the players traveled to Topgolf for a night away from practice and meetings.

The program’s sources of revenue during the CFP came exclusively from travel reimbursement and bowl payouts disbursed through the SEC, per league guidelines.

The conference distributed $2.025 million to Alabama for participating in the CFP semifinal and an additional $2.125 million for the CFP Championship Game. This money goes to the participating school out of the $6 million payout to the conference from the CFP, with the remainder split among the 14 SEC schools and the SEC office in 15 equal shares. Additionally, the SEC receives a payout of approximately $55 million as its share of the payout from the CFP’s major bowls, also split evenly among the league’s member schools and conference office.

In addition, the SEC provided to UA a travel allowance (determined by distance to the hosting venue) of $50,750 for the semifinal and $146,500 for the championship game.

The university chartered eight planes (four each for the semifinal and championship games), carrying 157 to Atlanta on the official team charter and 238 to Tampa (serviced through Delta Airlines), according to information obtained through an open-records request. A university-owned jet carried three passengers to Atlanta and six to Tampa. The UA president’s party and board of trustees consisted of 87 passengers traveling to Tampa, while the number of passengers traveling to Atlanta was not available.

Reach Aaron Suttles at or at 205-722-0229.