Ball State is the latest Mid-American Conference team to pay a deep price for participating in a bowl game. The school has reported a loss of $142,398.07 for its trip to the GMAC Bowl in Mobile.
Last week, MAC member Northern Illinois reported a loss of $154,125 for its trip to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Central Michigan, another conference member, dropped $67,227 on its trip to the Motor City Bowl in nearby Detroit.
Ball State officials are debating the value of intercollegiate athletics.
"I think the benefits from the visibility well exceed the investment of the dollar figure that you see there," said Tony Proudfoot, associate vice president for marketing and communications.
Proudfoot pointed to the "Flutie Effect," which suggests applications for enrollment can skyrocket because of gridiron success. Ball State has seen applications for admission increase by nearly 20% since 2006, but other universities in Indiana have seen similar increases regardless of their athletics programs.
From 2006 to 2008, Indiana State saw applications for admission increase almost 45% — from 5,230 to 7,572. During that span, Indiana State lost 26 consecutive football games.
Ball State economics professor Marilyn R. Flowers expressed concern about the amount of money the university spends on athletics, specifically from student fees.
The 2008-09 budget for athletics is more than $14 million. Approximately 80% of the budget is paid for from student fees — almost $9 million — and institutional support — almost $2.5 million.
"When it costs so much for kids to go to school, and you charge them $800 a year and most of them don't go to any games, that I think is really unfortunate," Flowers said.