GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has paid a record $2.75 million to get, what it hopes, are three victories this season.
School officials are expecting that number to get even bigger in the future.
The Gators are paying Football Championship Subdivision foe Jacksonville State $500,000 to come to Florida Field on Saturday and, presumably, get pummeled. UF already has paid $1.25 million to Bowling Green and $1 million to Louisiana-Lafayette this season.
It won't be long before UF has to shell out $3 million for three nonconference opponents to come play in Gainesville.
"I don't think prices are going down, just like everything else," said Chip Howard, UF's executive associate athletics director for internal affairs. "Will it go up exponentially year by year? I don't think so, but I think you'll see it edge upward. That's how it's trending."
That might come as early as 2015. UF is paying out only $1.35 million next season to Toledo ($800,000) and Georgia Southern ($550,000), but that's because the Gators play a road game against Miami (Fla.) instead of playing host to another nonconference opponent. In 2014, UF is paying $2.325 million for games against Idaho ($975,000), Eastern Michigan ($850,000) and Eastern Kentucky ($550,000).
Costs for scheduling nonconference opponents are not cheap, especially if schools don't want to schedule a home-and-home series. Tennessee paid $3.1 million to Montana, Cincinnati, Middle Tennessee and Buffalo to play in Neyland Stadium in 2011. Nebraska paid Arkansas State $1 million to play at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 13. That's the most the Cornhuskers ever have paid a nonconference opponent.
The general rule of thumb, Howard said, is that non-BCS league teams are paid around $1 million, while FCS teams will cost schools around $500,000. But those numbers can be significantly different, especially if those schools have several offers from bigger schools. And if the bigger school has to fill a certain date and isn't able to find another option, you get an impromptu bidding war.
Howard said UF is waiting for the Southeastern Conference to release schedules past 2013 -- the league recently released what it called a bridge schedule for 2013 while it continues to wrestle with a somewhat permanent format -- so he can begin working on nonconference opponents for 2015 and beyond.
"A lot of that has to do with where the conference schedule goes," Howard said. "I think they're going to want to have good games all year long, so where do you fit in our nonconference games?
Howard said the $2.75 million is the biggest single-season payout in school history. The Gators had to pay $1.25 million to Bowling Green because the Falcons were a late replacement for an opponent that canceled. UF also paid an additional $50,000 to Louisiana-Lafayette after the game was moved from the second week of the season to Nov. 10 at the SEC's request so the league could schedule the UF-Texas A&M game on Sept. 8.
Florida's schedule formula is to have three nonconference home games each season: Two against FBS teams, ideally played in the season's first two weeks, and an FCS opponent in the week between the final SEC game and the regular-season finale against Florida State. Howard said the school wants to play seven home games each season because that nets the school about $17.5 million annually, which works out to about $2.5 million per game.
UF will play only six home games next season because of the game at Miami, but Howard said the school has set aside $750,000 annually in 2010, 2011 and this season to make up for the loss of the $2.5 million.