Skipping the crap about the Fiesta Bowl’s sleaziness and the faux concern over the players’ “bowl experience” (not that there isn’t one, just that I doubt most of the people running the bowls give a rat’s ass about it), there is one issue they bring up as the Great BCS Rejiggering moves along that should factor into the equation:
Playing semifinal games at existing bowl sites would likely resuscitate games like the Orange Bowl, which has seen drastic drops in attendance and TV ratings in recent years. However, if the commissioners opt to play the semifinals at on-campus or new neutral sites (like, say, Indianapolis), the bowl business would likely feel the trickle down.
“That means two more teams have been taken outside the potential pool for our bowls,” said Gary Cavalli, executive director of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. “That affects everybody. The entire bowl system takes a minor hit.”
The scenario that makes the BCS bowls particularly nervous is the possibility of not only precluding the bowls from hosting semifinals, but bidding out the championship game to any U.S. city. “The championship game would not be branded as a bowl game even if a bowl organization serves as host,” reads the description in the aforementioned BCS document.
Should that happen, “It changes our financial model considerably,” said Shelton. Since the BCS’ 1998 inception, the Fiesta Bowl has counted on the revenue from its turn hosting the championship game every four years to help fund team payouts for both its regular game and the Insight Bowl, which is run by the same organization. (That game will have a new name this year after Insight let its contract expire.)
“Would we still host the Fiesta Bowl? Of course we would,” said Shelton. “But the intake and the outflow would be different. … [The Insight Bowl] would have to run with a much lower payout and a much different set of teams.”
Now I happen to think that playing the semis at on-campus sites is better for the fans and provides some incentive for a program to win its games and play a respectable schedule and I also suspect that Jerry Jones has already been whispering in somebody’s ear that the schools and conferences don’t have to worry about a drop in bowl revenue because he’s good for it and then some, but until you see those final numbers, it’s hard to say.
I do think the bowls have something to worry about, though. Lip service doesn’t pay the bills.