Tag Archives: Attendance

Your optimism is misplaced… er, I mean, inspiring.

Okay, Jim Delany, Mike Slive and the rest of that bunch know they’ve screwed up and they’re really, really sorry about that.

… At the 2010 Outback Bowl, Auburn became the first team in 62 years to play on New Year’s Day with a losing conference record. Five more teams have done that since then: Northwestern, Texas Tech, Michigan, Florida and Ohio State.

In the past five years, 10 of the 27 New Year’s Day bowls featured a team without a winning conference record. That occurred in just six of the 221 New Year’s Day bowls from 1968 to 2007.

Fans have been treated like suckers. The powers-that-be figured by putting something on New Year’s Day — even if it was undeserving teams — you’d keep filling seats, watching on TV and building up ratings for BCS bowls in the coming days.

For a while it worked. Then enough of you started paying attention.

BCS bowl attendance last year was down 8 percent compared to 2005, the last season before the addition of a fifth BCS game, the BCS Championship Game. Television viewership for all 2011-12 bowl games dropped 15 percent last year from 2010-11.

The thing is, it’s not like that happened in a vacuum.  It wasn’t an accident.  It’s what TV wanted.  And the conference commissioners were more than happy to comply with the request, as long as the checks rolled in.  Now the panic has set in as the numbers decline.  But who’s to say that the guys who drove the bus into the ditch in the first place are qualified to pilot the tow truck to pull the bowl season out of the ditch?  Does anybody really believe they’d place the sanctity of New Year’s Day above a few more dollars?

I can see why sliding the bowl season past January 1st has had a negative impact on fan attendance.  It’s one thing to ask us to spend a long holiday weekend in New Orleans.  It’s another to schedule a bowl game on the third or fourth of the month and expect fans to spend that much time away from their jobs and lives.

But it’s hard to see what difference that makes with regard to TV viewership.

Here’s what I expect to see in the next postseason deal – the conferences take back the tradition of the first day of the year in one form or fashion.  Ratings improve, because of the novelty of whatever form the BCS replacement takes.  And over time, if the numbers hold up, the calendar starts sliding again, because product is more important than anything to a network and TV revenue is more important than anything to a conference commissioner.  In other words, lather, rinse, repeat.

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I have not come to bury the BCS, but to praise it.

While we’re all summoning up a few choice words to say as the last rites are being performed over the prostrate body of the BCS (death by greed), at the risk of sounding too much like Bill Hancock, I think it’s worth remembering that despite its flawed moments, of which it’s certainly had its share, the BCS did good in three significant ways.

  1. It got us a 1 vs. 2 matchup on a consistent basis.“… it accomplished its goal of pairing college football’s consensus No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a title game 11 times in 14 seasons. That kind of efficiency would have been a pipe dream in the old system of bowls and polls, wherein only nine times in 35 seasons between 1963 and 1997 did the Associated Press’ top two teams meet in a bowl game.”  That was its reason for coming into being and given the competing interests involved (as we’re seeing now), that was no small task.
  2. It added to college football’s success story over the past two decades.  Ratings are up.  Attendance is up.  TV contracts have grown immensely in value.  I think you’d have to say that the BCS was more than an innocent bystander as that occurred.
  3. It helped spread the wealth to the mid-majors.  Say what you will, but the money the mid-majors have gotten out of the BCS in the last decade, pittance though it may be in the eyes of many, is still a helluva lot more than they used to get.  (The irony that we may be watching the start of a process that may end in the separation of D-1’s have and have-nots such that many of the smaller schools would wind up back the same boat they used to float in pre-BCS should not be lost on anyone.)

For the moment, I still stand by my Churchillian pronouncement, even while I recognize it may be on its last legs.  What say you?

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Sometimes, your honesty is refreshing.

The antidote to Bill Hancock’s BCS bullshit

… After conference commissioners met for almost 10 hours, a giddy Hancock emerged from a conference room and — for once — said something we can celebrate instead of mock.

“I can take status quo off the table,” Hancock said.

But this is the BCS. So, naturally, Hancock qualified his statement a few minutes later.

“The BCS as we know it — the exact same policies will not continue,” Hancock said. “That does not mean that there is definitely going to be a four-team event or a plus-one.”

… is this:

“Either way, everybody’s gonna be bent out of shape,” Richt said, laughing. “The way it is now, people will be bent out of shape if it’s just four.”

Ain’t that the troof.

I don’t get the celebratory reaction to Hancock’s statement.  Of course the status quo is going to get reworked.  The fix was in on that as soon as the conference commissioners took a close look at the attendance and viewership numbers from this past bowl season.

The problem now, as it has been all along, is achieving a consensus on what the replacement for the status quo will be.  And as Staples’ article indicates, as problems go, it’s a big ‘un.

Here’s just one example of what they’ve got to overcome.

… Scott would like to see a system that weighs strength of schedule more heavily. “If we go to a four-team playoff, then we’re essentially going to put more stock in the playoff,” Scott said. “The plan, from my perspective, would be a more credible, objective, fair system that balances strength of schedule. We all don’t play over the same course. Every conference has got different caliber. Some conferences play nine conference games. Some play eight. Some play stronger out-of-conference competition. Some tend to not. They just want to get home games.”

Take that, Mike Slive.  (My guess is he won’t.)

I don’t want to say a lot of the debate is insurmountable.  But what they’ve got to overcome in the next few weeks is certainly formidable.  While I don’t believe they’ll throw up their hands and stick with what they’ve done – that’s not where the money is, after all – it would surprise me less and less if they don’t fall back on a true plus-one, a title game after all the bowls are played in which the top two teams face off, as their default.  The fans get a new shiny toy, the schools get another game from which to generate revenue and the commissioners get to put off all the hard decisions that can’t reach agreement on for another day.  Which will no doubt come.

Meanwhile, nobody will listen to Mark Richt.

“Just tell me what the rules are. Tell me what the deal is and we’ll play by it,” he said. “I don’t know what is the right answer. But I would not want to change college football much. College football is a great sport. It’s an unbelievable regular season. Probably more exciting than any regular season in any sport. So we want to be careful to make sure we know what we’re looking for.”

**************************************************************************************

UPDATE:  A sixteen-team playoff is off the table.  For now.  Woo hoo!

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It’s money that they love, part one.

Ivan Maisel thinks one tell that change is coming to the BCS is that the usual dogs aren’t barking about the current discussion, but it’s the why they’ve stopped that’s more pertinent.

… The desire of a prime-time window for as many BCS bowls as possible has pushed the championship game past the first weekend of NFL playoffs. While it’s difficult to quantify the effect, Thompson and others are firm in their belief that once the NFL takes the stage, the buildup of a four-month season toward a championship event is irreparably interrupted.

Those prime-time windows also have fallen in midweek, which makes it difficult for fans to attend without blowing up their work schedules. Attendance has fallen — neither the Sugar Bowl nor the Orange Bowl has topped 70,000 in the last two years. Both had done so every year since 2002. The secondary ticket market — StubHub, Craigslist, etc. — has left schools stuck with the tickets they are obligated to purchase.

I must have missed the “settling it on the field” concern.

They took the TV checks and let things fall where they may.  Now that things haven’t worked out as well as they like, it’s time to make changes.  The question is, what happens when those changes don’t take them to a better place?

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The bowls’ business as usual

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.

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One thing that NCAA playoff label brings

USA Today looks at the rising salaries of college basketball coaches, which is now percolating down to schools with smaller athletic budgets.  It’s a classic case of keeping up with the Joneses, brought on by an expanding tournament which is the gauge for success.

Football is different.

VCU digging deep to thwart the get-Smart bids by Illinois and N.C. State is emblematic of a widening dollar gap between major-conference schools and so-called midmajors.  Football TV contracts and attendance for the six power conferences of football’s Bowl Championship Series mean big money, while competitive ambitions at midmajors often outrun their athletics departments’ ability to pay for them.

VCU is paying for Smart’s raise with increased student athletic fees.

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness

Roy Kramer dares to compare.

In opining about where college football needs to go with the BCS, the man who helped invent it raises the Analogy That Shall Not Be Named.

“There is a danger in this of going too far, and you can see that to a degree through basketball,” Kramer said. “We’ve left college basketball as a one-month sport, because people are only interested in March. They’re not interested in college basketball in December or January, because people view those games as preliminary games. You have to be careful, because college football is different.

“College football is the backbone of college athletic programs, and you’ve got to make the regular season significant and keep it significant. So whatever structure you come up with, you cannot overlook the regular season and the importance of what that is to all of our programs.”

Now he’s not saying that from a fan’s perspective.  Keeping the regular season significant for Kramer is merely a means to an end, which is keeping the regular season highly profitable.  (Not that I’m going to complain if our interests coincide.)

One thing to consider, though.  Since it’s apparent that some of the motivation behind the recent plus-0ne chatter is a knee-jerk response to a dip in attendance and viewership numbers with the bowls, how do you think college football’s grand poobahs will react to this news?

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