Three more bowl games on the table – perhaps. If all are approved, that would make for a total of 35. Stewart Mandel wonders where all the teams are going to come from to play.
Just how low on the totem pole are these games willing to go? The Congressional Bowl’s agreement with the ACC would send the league’s ninth eligible team to D.C — but the conference has yet to produce more than eight since expanding in 2004. (The bowl’s backup partner is the MAC.) And a potential partnership with the St. Pete Bowl would give the eight-team Big East seven guaranteed slots in 2008 (though Notre Dame can take one of them).
The bowl system last expanded in 2006 with the addition of four new games: The BCS’ stand-alone national championship game, the PapaJohns.com game in Birmingham, Toronto’s International Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The NCAA’s coinciding move to a 12-game regular-season, along with the elimination of previous restrictions against 6-6 teams and the counting of wins over I-AA opponents, expanded the pool of eligible teams from 59 in 2004 to 73 two years later.
Last season, however, there were only seven eligible teams that did not land bowl invitations. They were Troy, South Carolina, Northwestern, Iowa, Louisville, Ohio and Louisiana-Monroe. Had the three proposed new games already existed, there would have been just one team to spare.
So why does bowl expansion keep happening? Because there are enough interested parties – including us – fueling it.
Last year’s 32 bowl games netted an average attendance of 54,078, highest in eight years. The PapaJohns.com Bowl pitting Cincinnati and Southern Miss garnered a modest but respectable 2.26 rating on ESPN2. By comparison, NBA regular-season games on ESPN average a 1.3.
“If the market can bear it, [NCAA schools] have basically voted to have as many bowls as they can,” said Giannini. “If all bowls are stable, basically, the market is saying that having that many bowls is efficient.”
What’s not to like?
“The reality is that I’ve yet to meet a coach who doesn’t want a postseason opportunity,” said ESPN’s Derzis. “If they qualify, their season continues, they get extra practice time, they get a chance to showcase their program on national television, and it truly is positioned as a reward for the players, the staff and the fans.
“… Communities continue to embrace [bowls] and to open their arms to host new ones, and television ratings continue to show that the public has not had their fill of bowls.”
If you televise it, they will come.