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SBD/December 31, 2012/CollegesPrint All
Bowl attendance "continues to fall across major-college football, raising questions about the number of postseason games, the amount of fan interest in postseason play and the way schools and bowls market and sell tickets," according to Paul Myerberg of USA TODAY. Through the first 19 bowls, attendance is "down an average of 3,138 fans a game from the 2011-12 slate." Three bowls have seen "attendance increases of 5,000 or more from a year ago" while six have seen "decreases of 5,000 or more." Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Dir Paul Swangard said that economic pressures are the "primary reason behind declining attendance during bowl play." Not even "elite football programs are immune." The Allstate Sugar Bowl, which features Florida-Louisville, has sold "fewer than 8,000 of its 17,500 allotted tickets." The Capital One Bowl featuring Georgia-Nebraska "has sold less than one-third of its 12,500-ticket allotment." Swangard said, "What it suggests is that the bowls and the schools are going to have to revisit the method of ticket allocation, particularly in those bowl games where the market demand just can't seem to sustain the model" (USA TODAY, 12/31).
FROZEN ORANGES: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dieter Kurtenbach reported demand for Discover Orange Bowl tickets is "dangerously close to an all-time low, and it doesn't look like the market will become any better." The game features one "in-state school in Florida State, which is good for Orange Bowl ticket values, but the inclusion of Mid American Conference school Northern Illinois ... has relegated the Orange Bowl to a lower-interest tier of games." The Orange Bowl claims that there are "only 1,000 tickets remaining for the game." But with demand on the secondary market "so low, thousands of tickets are floating around, many purchased only for the right to buy BCS National Championship Game tickets." Those Orange Bowl tickets could "possibly go unused." So there is "little chance that the stadium will host more than the 70,000 fans likely to be officially announced Jan. 1" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 12/29).
LET'S BE HONEST: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes, "We can all agree that there are too many college bowl games." But not only "aren't there enough teams for all these bowls, there aren't enough cities." Last week there were bowl games in DC and N.Y., where "temperatures were in the low 30s." Jones: "In fact, Saturday's Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium was played in a snowstorm. And this is a reward for college teams?" Players on bowl teams "want to go to beaches and amusement parks." They want to "wear shorts and sunglasses, not parkas and ear muffs" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/31).
INDEPENDENCE DAY: In, Louisiana, Roy Lang notes for the second straight year the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl was "blanketed with chilly, damp weather conditions." And it appeared on Friday that a "little more than half of the 41,853 tickets paid for were used." Bowl Chair Jack Andres said that he "was 'disappointed' to see another horde of empty seats at Independence Stadium." Andres added, "We have to generate more revenue. We have a sponsor that’s willing to help out." He said, "When you pay more, you can get better teams, you can get better dates and you get better crowds. If you get better dates, you get better (overnight) stays in the city" (SHREVEPORT TIMES, 12/31).
FEELING FATIGUED: In Green Bay, Josh Lintereur cited travel agents as saying that a third straight trip to the Rose Bowl may have left Wisconsin fans "with bowl fatigue, as sales of travel packages are down considerably for this year’s game." Fan enthusiasm "may have also been dampened by the team’s 8-5 record." Fox World Travel Business Development Manager Rose Gray said that while the "enthusiasm from Badger fans isn’t at the level it’s been in the past two years, that’s not to say the Badgers won’t be well-represented by their fans" (GREENBAYPRESSGAZETTE.com, 12/29).
Schools remaining in the Big East are “getting anxious about the lack of a television deal for the 2013-14 basketball season,” according to Andy Katz of ESPN.com. UConn had “expected it would hear about the details of the deal by the New Year,” but that was “put off once the Catholic 7 decided to bolt earlier in the month (possibly as early as 2014, although they'd love to get out by 2013).” UConn AD Warde Manuel said that the school “needs to know what kind of revenue it would receive next year from television, a must for all of the remaining schools.” Katz writes, “Meanwhile, don't expect the remaining Big East schools to allow Boise State to cut its own rights deal to keep home television profits” (ESPN.com, 12/31). Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson said that he has “spoken with Boise State about staying in the Mountain West instead of its planned departure to the Big East, dangling the potential windfall of a reworked television contract." Thompson added that he "has not spoken" with San Diego State. Thompson noted, “It’s not by any particular design that we haven’t talked to San Diego State. Maybe it’s a cat and mouse kind of deal. Boise State has been more active in this. … I would have no issue talking with San Diego State if something were to develop.” In San Diego, Mark Zeigler notes SDSU AD Jim Sterk has “steadfastly remained committed to the Big East in football and Big West in most other sports, men’s basketball most prominent among them.” Ziegler: "Nothing figures to happen until two numbers are known: the value of a new Big East TV contract with its depleted membership, and the value of a Mountain West TV contract now that the conference can sell its second-tier rights. And that might not happen for several months” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 12/31).
END OF AN ERA: In Omaha, Tom Shatel conducted a Q&A with outgoing Nebraska AD Tom Osborne, who will retire on Tuesday. Osborne, on what college football could be like in five and 10 years, said, “I suspect that we're going to see four or five 16-team conferences, that are major schools. There will be some type of modified playoff system. We may stay with a four-team format for a while, but there will always be pressure to go beyond that.” He added, “I am concerned about the amounts of money involved. There are various federal laws that allow you to regulate a lot of things, such as salaries, and we do see professional teams with salary caps. We may see something like that at some level.” Osborne: “But the thing that continues to be disturbing to me is when you look at all of the money that has been generated and you still have resistance to providing a $2,000 stipend to the people who are really drawing the crowds. I don't believe in players trying to be salaried, but I think something like the cost-of-attendance stipend is reasonable and shouldn't be tied to family income or need-based” (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 12/30).
In an “unforeseen convergence, nearly a dozen institutions of limited football renown are trying to force their way” into the FBS, according to Bill Pennington of the N.Y. TIMES. As many as 15 schools are “publicly or privately discussing” moving into the “cutthroat, unrestrained arena dominated by college football monoliths.” Despite the fact that many FBS newcomers “take a beating and a vast majority of established football programs lose money just like their lesser-level brethren,” the incoming schools "are undeterred.” Tulane President Scott Cowen said, “What any school moving up in football should ask itself is this: what are the real costs of the benefits? You will get more visibility and exposure, and at first, that seems like a very good investment. The problem is that once you wade in for keeps at the FBS level, you face facility improvements, escalating coaching salaries, added staff and more athletic scholarships. The cost curve is extremely steep, and unless you’re in a power conference, the revenue is flat.” UNC-Charlotte AD Judy Rose was asked if she was “worried about big-time football corrupting the priorities of the athletic department" or if there was concern that the school was "aligning itself with an ultracompetitive group where rule breaking is hardly uncommon.” Rose said, “You do have to pay more attention to football because of the numbers involved in terms of players, coaches and finances. But I’m not worried about getting in bed with any of those folks. I don’t see any of them dropping football. It can be bad, and we’ve all seen what can happen. But when it’s good, it’s really good.”
FIRST YEAR IN REVIEW: Pennington noted UMass this year “took the mighty step up to big-time college football." To make the leap “more concrete, UMass decided to play its home games at Gillette Stadium.” First-year UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy "inherited the FBS decision.” But he supports it as a “reasonable, calculated risk.” Subbaswamy said, “If managed properly, we will come out better for it.” He added, “It’s important to keep in mind that the total athletic budget is 4 percent of our expenditures.” Subbaswamy “did not rule out the possibility that UMass would reverse course.” UMass AD John McCutcheon said, “It’s going to take four or five years to see a change for us. But a football team with a national profile can have transforming effects on a university” (N.Y. TIMES, 12/30).