Weekly Whip Around: The Bowl Abundance Problem

By: Trace Welch, @twelch88

The holiday season, when everyone thinks of family, food, friends, and of course, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. This year’s inaugural Camellia bowl pitted the highly anticipated matchup of Bowling Green vs. South Alabama. Although the game was an exciting matchup, it is time to take a look at the overabundance of College Football bowl games and whether they are really necessary to the functioning of the College Football postseason. College Football bowl season is an exciting time of year for sports, drawing large television audiences and providing student athletes an opportunity for all of their hard work to be rewarded. There are benefits as well as disadvantages to having such a large allotment of bowl games, and these two factors must be weighed against each other in order to determine if change is necessary or if the format is acceptable as it currently is.

The 2014–2015 NCAA Division I bowl season has 39 bowl games ranging in locations from Detroit, Michigan to Nassau, Bahamas. The majority of these bowls have contracts with respective conferences that guarantee that if there is a bowl eligible team from a conference that the bowl will choose that team and pit them against a team from another conference who also holds a contract with the bowl game. This can cause some financial strain for the conferences when it comes to ticket allotment. One provision of the contract is that the conference guarantees to buy a certain allotment of bowl tickets. After the conference buys these tickets, it is then the responsibility of the conference/ school to sell these tickets. A majority of the low tier bowls have sparse attendance that is noticeable to anyone watching on television. When the attendance numbers are so low for these games that means that the conference has taken a financial hit, as they were not able to sell the tickets that they were required to purchase from the bowl game. During the 2013–2014 bowl season, conferences and schools once again had trouble selling tickets, which resulted in a record $23.8 million of unsold tickets according to NCAA records.[1] This lost money is a wasted resource that could be used by the conferences for the betterment of student athletes.

The question to consider however is if the money made from television programming makes up for the lost money in attendance. The figures suggest that the driving force behind all of these bowl games is the television viewership that is almost guaranteed by the bowl games. In 2013–2014 the lowest number of viewers that a bowl had was 1.1 million people, which will more than make up for the lost money in attendance. This television thirst for college football bowl games is what drives the creation and maintenance of such a large number of postseason contests. The viewership numbers is not the only thing that keeps these bowl games so stable. Sponsorship, support, and commitment from large corporate entities allow bowl games to operate effectively. Support from the local community whose economy is boosted also allows bowl games to function. Lastly, the coordination between conferences, the NCAA and these bowl games allows for the bowl season to go off without a hitch. All of these reasons contribute to such a long and plentiful college football postseason and my next article will delve deeper into the factors that contribute to such a large amount of bowl games, as well as the pros and cons from so many postseason contests.

[1] https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2014/12/25/college-football-bowl-games-attendance-bahamas-camellia-espn/20896969/