Who said anything about a free market?

Jay Christensen, aka The Wiz of Odds, takes an exhaustive look at schools’ bowl expenses and revenues and, not surprisingly for a playoff proponent, finds them wanting.  He enlists noted BCS scold Andrew Zimbalist for support at one point.  Zimbalist’s logic is rather interesting:

… Supporters of the 35-game bowl system argue that the postseason turns a profit. Technically, this is correct, but only because of the BCS, which this season distributed a reported $174.07 million from its five games. Of that amount, 83.4 percent went to the automatic qualifier conferences — the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific 10 and Southeastern conferences.

The 30 non-BCS bowl games are, at best, a break-even venture. Without the ticket guarantee, it is likely that half the bowls would not exist.

“[Division I-A] needs a football playoff, just like all other NCAA sports,” said Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College in Mass.

“The bowl games are all a silly extravagance, and, save the BCS cartel, all significant money drains on athletic programs already in the red. The fact that a participating school has to buy up over 300k in tickets to its own game is as clear an indication as you can get that these competitions have no market justification.”

In other words, college football needs to replace the BCS cartel with a larger cartel run by the NCAA.  Antitrust law, ftw!


Filed under BCS/Playoffs

9 responses to “Who said anything about a free market?

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    To your title, add “Who said anything about profit” in the non-BCS bowls. They’re run by non-profit entities, the communities create them for travel and tourism dollars, and the colleges are willing to go to the expense to reward a decent football season. You don’t look at just the colleges, Professor Zimbalist, unless you have an agenda.


  2. HK

    Perhaps the reason the bowls have been losing money is that the match ups have been about 85% crap over the last 5 or 10 years. Go look at a list of bowl games from any year in the 80’s or 90’s and see a list of pretty good match ups almost across the board; then compare that to a list from the last 5 years…. its shit. Non-BCS schools participate in about half of the games now. As in, there is no good reason to watch half of the games; everyone involved is doomed to lose money.

    The BCS school’s fans are pissed they are in such a bad bowl that they have to play a non-AQ, non-AQ fans don’t travel no matter what, and the rest of the world just doesn’t give a damn to watch that garbage.

    Here’s an idea: beyond the BCS and maybe top 5 or so other bowls (the traditional ones like Cotton, Peach, etc.), get rid of the tie ins. As in, let the lower tier bowls pick who they want every year based on who they think makes the most compelling match up and who they can sell the most tickets to; let them pick the best “product”. They could base it on whatever they think gets them a good profitable product, rather than being forced to take, say, the 7th best team from X conference versus the C-USA champion. Sure whoever gets last pick will get stuck, but you can rotate that every year almost like a draft. Or at least broaden their discretion with the tie ins.


    • HK

      As in the problem he complains about is a result of the ideals he is fighting for; fairness for the little guys. They already got some of that with the lower tier tie ins, and look at the result.


  3. Normaltown Mike

    He crafts his entire argument around Connecticut which disproves his entire point: Connecticut voluntarily moved from 1-AA to D-1 just 10 yrs ago. If the playoff is the heaven on Erf these guys claim it is, why would the Huskies move? If the bowl system is a veritable hell hole for UConn, why stay?


  4. JasonC

    So 83% went to BCS schools… what was the percentage of BCS participants in the bowls?
    Also, it seems to me that to make the whole bowl system more profitable, one solution would be to cut the bottom 5 bowls which mostly host crappy teams that don’t travel as HK alluded to. Wouldn’t that increase overall profit margin?


  5. Reptillicide

    Is it just me or are people generally losing interest in the playoff debate? I know I am. I don’t really care anymore. Not to say that the gubment has lost interest…


  6. Keese

    So 83% goes to AQ schools. The remaining is for non AQ conference schools, correct?. Now tell me how drastic the income distribution would change to those AQ BCS conferences if they allowed 1-2 BCS tie in from non AQ schools? Think of a December where we could watch non AQ conference champions play a playoff for a berth at a BCS bowl game table while in the December drought for football?


  7. mikeinflorida

    Funny, all these schools being “forced” to buy tickets, yet no school turns down a bid.