What’s the difference between a shakeup and a shakedown?

Now it’s the bowls’ turn to pay.  And the commissioners are on the mother.

“Since we’ve made such a significant change with the playoff, it’s a perfect time to look at the bowls and how they work,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said this week. “This is a very good time to take a hard look at how we do our bowl relationships and see if there’s a better way.”

Now we all know what that really means.  There’s not really a crisis.

As the FBA’s media guide points out, no conference lost money during the 2011-12 bowl season. The leagues combined to make nearly $180 million after expenses. The conferences choose to split that money among all members.

There’s just a situation waiting to be squeezed.  And Jim Delany thinks he’s getting pretty good at that.

Delany and potential Big Ten bowls have discussed possible models in which the bowls and conferences combine to “share both the upside and downside.” For instance, in the case of a dud matchup, both the bowl and the schools/conferences would absorb the blow in ticket sales. However, in the case of a particularly popular matchup, the schools/conferences would have the chance to earn more than their expected payout by selling more than their initial allotment.

Mandel has a pretty good handle on where things are headed.

In the new cycle, conferences will dictate the terms rather than vice versa. The SEC and Big 12 provided the blueprint with last year’s creation of their so-called Champions Bowl matchup, subsequently awarded to the Sugar Bowl. In a departure from the traditional paradigm, the leagues, not the bowl, sold the event to ESPN. Terms have not been disclosed, but sources who saw the original proposal say the leagues planned to retain nearly all the television and sponsorship revenue while essentially paying the bowl committee a fee to run the event.

With the exception of the Rose, already co-managed by the Big Ten and Pac-12, it’s believed the other five playoff-host bowls will fall under a similar operating structure. Each bowl (the Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A are expected to join the Rose, Sugar and Orange) will host four semifinal games over 12 years, and if this year’s Sugar Bowl was an indication, they may have to rely heavily on those playoff games to subsidize the other years. In years the Sugar Bowl “is not a semifinal, it could be viewed as a letdown [for fans],” said Bowlsby. “One of the reasons we went with New Orleans is because we look at it as a significant tourist attraction.”

It’s unlikely the Sugar Bowl model would trickle down to the lower bowls, as the ticket revenue most generate is not enough to sustain themselves. Given the current climate, one director of a mid-level bowl told SI.com he doesn’t expect the game to continue in the next cycle. There may be others that don’t survive, either.

If that’s the case, don’t be surprised if ESPN, which currently owns seven bowls, creates new ones to replace the fallen. Even its lowest-tier bowls (Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, GoDaddy.com, etc.) garner decent enough ratings to support a 35-bowl system. In a telling example, the network’s Dec. 15 Arizona-Nevada New Mexico Bowl broadcast drew a higher rating (1.9) than Butler’s overtime upset of No. 1 Indiana on CBS during the same time window (1.5). It doesn’t affect ESPN, which owns and operates the New Mexico Bowl, that only 24,610 fans attended the game in person.

In other words, the middleman is being eliminated.  The conferences will take control of the glamor bowls – more importantly, the matchups in the glamor bowls –  and ESPN will control the rest.  TV’s role will become even more outsized.  The conferences will negotiate smaller ticket guarantees for the lesser bowls and leave those to fend for themselves with the secondary ticket market (not that ESPN cares about that).

So get used to what you’re seeing before New Year’s.  It’s not going to change much, other than a location move here and there.  The product will continue to be there.  The crowds won’t.


Filed under It's Just Bidness

15 responses to “What’s the difference between a shakeup and a shakedown?

  1. HVL Dawg

    “You are data to be transmitted elsewhere.”

    The future bowls will take place in a great bowl studio. In two or three years you will be able to sit at home and watch yourself enjoying the game in person. They have been collecting data on you for three years so that they can change your shirt and slightly modify your hairstyle. Imagine the cost savings of not having to manage and service a crowd.

    Imagine the fun of sitting in the comfort of your own home, hosting a quarterfinals game party, when you see an image of yourself in the rowdy gameday crowd celebrating a Dawg touchdown. Damn, couldn’t they have cut my hair before for this game. And geez, I only wore that kind of shirt once and it was at Vandy 2012.

    The computers have already programmed Katherine Webb’s image into Oregon, aTm, and Ohio State t shirts. She’s being programmed in for 30% of the pre Christmas bowls. You are next.

    “You are data to be transmitted elsewhere.”


    • HVL Dawg

      “You are data to be transmitted elsewhere” is a quote from an article from last year’s Wimbledon coverage. I’m sorry I can’t cite the author. It was an observation about how the Wimbledon organizers don’t care at all about the spectator experience except that they look good on TV.


  2. Dude…what have you been smoking?


  3. 81Dog

    I have a mental image of Jim Delany sitting in front of a room full of bowl committee chairmen, sort of like Ben Affleck in “Good Will Hunting” at the job interview he was covering for Matt Damon, putting his feet on the conference table, staring at the ceiling, waving his hands dismissively while he interrupts one of the chairmen and sing songs “Re-TAIN-er!!!!!!”

    maybe if they send him home with $100 bills stuffed in all his pockets, he’ll give them a break and let them have a bowl game or two.


  4. 66DAWGnNC

    I’m with you Joy. I was a little lost in the translation as well. HVL must mean “High Velocity Ludes” or something similar. At any rate, “I will have what she’s having.”


  5. DawgPhan

    makes sense for the schools to get on top of the whole bowl revenue thing…seems like this year especially there was a lot of unsold tickets choking ADs around the country.


  6. Ubiquitous Ga Alum

    Schools (fans) getting crappy seats from the bowls have forced me to stop buying tickets from the school … my loaylty has its limits, which is what I told AD McGarity last year


  7. Cojones

    Offhand, I’d say stuff that’s better than that buzzkill you’re smokin’, Joy.

    Think about it. HVL, in a presciently written view, has extended the reasoning…well…reasonably. Why wouldn’t a money-driven outfit fake the audience in a vacant stadium where the game is artificially cheered(like we do in practice using stadium noise), cheerleaders are shown closeup between plays and everything duplicated for home enjoyment using their current reasoning for televising poorly attended games? Without the stadium food costs and your ability to call a “Caterer on Wheels” to serve Mexican food from trucks during halftime at your home…..Hey, a lot of CFB fans will go for that since they cheer for the Dawgs, but don’t have a dog in this race, i.e. , they aren’t alums. We are the ones who get special feelings in the seats of our stadium that transcends the game on the field.

    While I am sure that HVL meant this as a continuing snark on the material posted, it’s not far off the mark when viewing the tone from ESPN.

    Smoke’em if you got’em.


    • Chadwick

      Right, who is to say it won’t become a studio sport? Really? Who thought a family would pay $150 per month for TV programming today back in 1980. Get ready now for an onslaught of online higher education, it is coming, and much faster than we know. Has what we will be doing in15 years even been invented?


  8. I posted this late in a previous thread, but it applies here again now because the issue is live game attendance:

    The problem of stadium attendance and stadium experience has very little to do with the quality of our OOC opponents (or the quality of bowl game teams, for that matter).

    You are talking about 5 better home games every decade. That’s it. Not 5 MORE home games. 5 home games against more challenging teams. Oh, and if you screw up that game, you get a worse bowl game that your fans will be even less likely to attend.

    There is a huge problem right now in all sports that the home viewing experience is, quite frankly, 1000000 times better than the stadium/arena experience.

    * Grossly overpriced tickets.
    * Grossly overpriced parking.
    * Grossly overpriced concessions.
    * Extreme overcrowding.
    * Bad, limited, distant parking.
    * Tiny, uncomfortable, cramped seats.
    * Takes 6 hours to watch a 3 hour game when you count parking, travel, negotiating crowds, etc.
    * Tons of extremely rude people shouting obscenities and spilling beer on you.

    Furthermore, there are a lot of people who would prefer to watch “tough” games from home.

    You know what sucks worse than fighting through a crowd to get to your car after a win?

    Fighting through the crowd after a loss.


  9. paul

    So, how long before the WWL starts trying to monopolize the secondary ticket market? Vertical integration.


  10. Hogbody Spradlin

    So HVL, that means that each molecule in my fingernail could be one tiny universe?


  11. Fluke bucket

    The Singularity is near…..