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Why Cal will happily take $1.9 million to play Notre Dame in 2022

New Mexico State got paid $1.7 million for playing a football game at Alabama this past season. Arkansas State picked up $1.8 million for playing at Georgia. California will receive $1.9 million for playing at Notre Dame in 2022.

The difference is that Cal is a Power Five conference school – the kind that presumably has the wherewithal to say thanks-but-no-thanks to any one-game agreement that involves visiting a powerhouse’s home stadium.

That’s not what Cal has. Instead it has is major financial problems, and a relatively new athletics director and campus chancellor, both of whom are trying to also juggle an array of 30 varsity teams playing on some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

Against this backdrop, Cal last week announced the deal with Notre Dame, with the financial details included in the game contract. It won’t be the first time a Power Five school has made such a deal with another Power Five school. It won’t even be a first for a Pac-12 Conference school. Oregon State collected $1.7 million for a game in 2018 at Ohio State. But in an annual universe of hundreds of non-conference football games involving payments totaling well over $150 million, Power Five schools rarely play one-off games against a peer anywhere other than a neutral site.

California will receive $1.9 million for playing at Notre Dame in 2022.

“To play Notre Dame is a unique opportunity … two years out, (Cal fans) will be planning this trip and really getting excited about it,” Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton told USA TODAY Sports. “Our budget is not reliant on that (game guarantee). Our budget is based on other things for revenue generation. If someone were to say to me ‘Does $1.9 million help?’ yes, of course it does. But we’re really building our schedule around home and home” series.

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