For The BCS, It’s About The Money, Not The Fans


I remember growing up that most of the college bowl games were played on holidays or around the holiday season. I also remember that you couldn’t wait until New Year’s Day, because you knew you were about to see the four major bowls and that you were going to know who the national champion was by the end of the day.

Now we have bowl games that start in the middle of December, and they play damn near to the middle of January. New Year’s Day is the day all bowls should end. Bowl games are a part of the hype of the New Year. Putting games off for another week only prolongs the event that has already been hyped for over a month. Plus, bowl games would get better attendance if they played them on days like New Year’s Day when kids aren’t in school and parents wouldn’t mind dragging them along.

Not everyone can take off work in this economy, but it doesn’t seem to matter for the BCS. Television markets want exclusive rights to certain nights, so they want to be the only game in town if they are broadcasting a BCS event. I understand that it’s about money; it always is, but there is something about a bowl game being played on New Year’s Day that makes it all seem right.

I mean, who doesn’t want to hear Keith Jackson or Gus Johnson giving it to you live and direct after you are polishing off some of that New Year’s delicatessen that your grandparents, parents, or significant other have prepared for you on that day?

Take a look at this year’s bowl make-up. The Sugar Bowl takes place on Tuesday, January 3, an awkward day during the middle of the week and far enough removed from New Year’s that many fans wouldn’t be able to use holiday time to attend (the Federal calendar designates Jan. 2 as a holiday, since New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday.) This is surely a boost to TV ratings, since the Sugar Bowl will be the only game on that night, but I’d imagine it affects attendance negatively. In most cases, schools are chosen because they travel well, but who is going to travel to a game mid-week when you have to take off work and possibly keep your kids out of school? It really makes little, if no sense at all.

The reality of the situation is that attendance should be a major issue. People just aren’t going to events like they did five-to-ten years ago. The economy precludes corporate-sponsored attendees, as well as regular fans, with extra vacation money. NASCAR is down, as is the NFL, not to mention the NBA before they were locked out. MLB was flat from 2010, which itself was down for the third straight year. So why not set your schedule to cater to those who will attend?

Bowl dates seem to be affecting the other major bowls as well. The Orange Bowl takes place the night after the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday, January 4th. That is the middle of a work week and not remotely close to any part of the weekend. I am not sure about the total number of tickets sold, but I would be willing to bet that they aren’t anywhere close to selling out, since I saw tickets on the internet selling for $35 for this game.

This is further proof that letting the BCS set the dates around television will affect the atmosphere of the game. I guess it is what it is, though, as the only real thing that matters is the money, not the fans.

Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out

4 Replies to “For The BCS, It’s About The Money, Not The Fans”

  1. The money is important but to make this an issue where the BCS is the problem is unfair. I understand that the BCS has become this boogeyman of sorts where everything that goes wrong; conference alignment, corruption etc, becomes a sort of referendum on the BCS but that’s just not right. ESPN and Fox before them set these BCS dates for television. Yeah, the BCS wants eyeballs but the networks NEED eyeballs. That’s where those big conference checks they write annually come from. The $34 million that the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC will take home this year thanks to two BCS participants is a mix of corporate dollars and television revenue.

    Corporate dollars that want to be seen on television. Television ad-revenue that you get from primetime ad space. Between the rise of DVR and the subsequent drop in primetime TV ad revenue sports in primetime are the only “sure thing” for a captive audience. The only “good buy” in the ad game.

    When you have the country’s second most popular sport and big checks that networks need to write the conferences you get a push to make more money. That’s not the BCS, that’s the progression of the money making mechanisms in the sport itself. Is it convenient for folks who want to sit around all day? No. Is it ideal for travel to games? No.

    But neither is the Chick-fil-A Kickoff that has robbed VT, Clemson, Alabama, LSU, UNC, UGA and/or Boise State of a homegame in favor of a cash payment and gives the network a high ratings program the first weekend in September. Same with the Lonestar Showdown in Jerry’s World.

    I’d love to see wall to wall football on the 1st as we saw before TV ratings became paramount but given the economics of it all that’s not going to return. You can’t stack bowls as easily anymore because you want those eyes trained on a handful of games to make it worth an advertiser’s while. It’s a conflict between fans and money and in instances like this year where the dates fall midweek the fans, the bowls ticket sales and the host cities do lose out but that’s not the BCS’s fault. It’s a college football issue that exists whether it’s a Friday night Big XII game or a midweek Sugar Bowl.

  2. Bowl games used to be all of the hype of the holiday season. You couldn’t wait until Christmas for NBA and Bowl games that week through the New Year. Now they are so scattered out and filled with mediocre teams that no one bothers to attend or watch. I wish they would go back to the old format. It was so much simpler and better to watch.

  3. Couldn’t agree more.

    When the Buckeyes played in the National Championship games after the ’06 and ’07 seasons, it was a true inconvenience to try to go. I was already off for Christmas, off again for New Year’s, and needed more time off. It was much easier to go to the Rose Bowl against Oregon on New Year’s Day, 2010.

    But I understand. Bowl games have become big business. The BCS Bowls are not going to compete with each other so the games have to be spread out. Television revenue trumps ticket sales by a wide margin. More money is made if you have a half full house with good ratings than a full house with low ratings.

    @India – Your comment that no one bothers to attend or watch is not quite accurate. I assume you are talking about the minor bowl games. You’re right when you say there’s not much attendance. But ratings are very good. I was shocked to find out that a minor bowl game between two 7-5 teams will generate twice the ratings that two top 20 basketball teams provide.

    This is the world we live in. Football is King and TV ratings support the Monarchy.

    (Historical Footnote:In 1961, after the Buckeyes won the Big Ten Title, the faculty voted to turn down the Rose Bowl invitation. They felt that there was too much emphasis on football and it was taking away from the school’s academic reputation. Any faculty member who would vote to turn down a Rose Bowl bid today would be summarily stripped of his tenure and driven to the state border with instructions never to return.

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