As has been discussed ad infinitum on this site, Cal has a bit of an athletic debt they'd like to get rid of as quickly as possible. So they have done whatever they can to reduce it year-by-year.
The latest endeavor has been neutral site games, which sound more and more like they will become an inevitability every year until debts are paid. Cal is set to earn a million dollars from their trip to Australia.
A home football game against a Sacramento State, Portland State or UC Davis generates a negligible profit. Ticket revenue is usually in the high six figures, but it's largely offset by game-day operating expenses and the whopping guarantee required by the opponent — often more than $400,000.
The paycheck Cal secured for playing in Sydney is well in excess of $1 million. The Bears are guaranteed a seven-figure profit from the experience, even when all expenses are factored into the calculation.
Those expenses, by the way, include travel and the cost of cancelling the home game that had been scheduled before the Hawaii game materialized.
Considering how the Bears break even on FCS contests, does that mean more of these neutral games are now just an inevitability? The opportunity is there for Cal to cash in and keep moving faster to recoup costs.
Neutral site games have proven to make a lot of money for major college football programs thanks to TV money, so it seems inevitable that Cal will start signing up for more major games in NFL stadiums if they can do it. Whether it be in Australia, or Santa Clara, or maybe the new NFL stadium in Los Angeles, or elsewhere throughout the nation, Cal is likely to sign up for these one-and-dones if they can recoup costs.
While the experience will be financially beneficial for Cal Athletics, it probably will not encourage fan growth. And let's face it, neutral games will more often than not be strictly neutral. Cal fans are not likely to travel in huge numbers to sites outside the state of California. We saw how difficult it was for Golden Bears to even fill up games close to Berkeley in Santa Clara and San Francisco (in AT&T Park and Candlestick).
Cal fans, your thoughts on the potential for more neutral site games?