SBD/4/Collegiate Sports

ABC SEEKING $400M EXTENSION WITH BCS? EARLY BOWL NUMBERS

          ABC is reportedly offering the Bowl Championship Series
     (BCS) a four-year contract extension worth "about" $400M,
     according to Scott Newman of BLOOMBERG NEWS.  A "high-
     ranking college athletic official" said that the BCS "could
     wait until August" to consider ABC's offer, but will
     "probably unveil an agreement with ABC by April."  Newman
     noted the contract extension "would probably ensure that
     major college football couldn't decide its national champion
     with a playoff until 2006."  But ISL Exec VP Jim Wheeler,
     whose company is seeking a national playoff format, is
     "working on a last-ditch proposal he hopes to present" to
     the BCS and athletic directors later this month.  Wheeler
     said that he will propose an eight-team format that would
     include a total payout of at least $1B (BLOOMBERG NEWS,
     1/3).  Wheeler: "When [BCS Chair] Roy Kramer says he's not
     going to let a foreign company run the football
     championship, that doesn't bother me.  I don't want to run
     it.  I want to be a commercial partner" (USA TODAY, 12/31). 
     USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke noted the $400M figure will
     increase ABC's annual payments to the BCS 27% from the
     current $78.57M to $100M.  ABC Sports Dir of PR Mark Mandel
     "declined comment" on the report (USA TODAY, 1/3).  
          BUT ARE THE FANS SHOWING UP? Attendance at 21 of
     college football's 24 bowl games "dipped on average from a
     year ago, most notably on New Year's Day."  Attendance for
     the bowl games played prior to Sunday's Fiesta Bowl,
     excluding the first-year Mobile Alabama bowl, "averaged
     52,448, down slightly from 53,372 a year earlier."  But the
     six games played New Year's Day averaged 64,876 fans, a
     "startling" 10.5% drop from last year's average of nearly
     72,500.  Peach Bowl President Gary Stokan: "They're getting
     no coverage outside the areas their (participating) teams
     represent."  But USA TODAY noted that overall attendance is
     "virtually unchanged" from the "pre-BCS" '97 season (USA
     TODAY, 1/3).  In K.C., Blair Kerkhoff reported that none of
     the four New Year's Day bowl games held in FL "filled the
     stadium."  While the Cotton Bowl "was filled to capacity"
     and the Fiesta Bowl "was sold out," the Rose Bowl, "which
     was listed as a sellout," drew its "smallest crowd" since
     '55 with 93,731. The Gator Bowl drew 43,416, its smallest
     crowd since '58, while the Orange Bowl drew 54,866, 20,000
     short of capacity (K.C. STAR, 1/2).  In Miami, Linda
     Robertson reported that the "bowl glut needs to be
     addressed" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/2).
     
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