USA TODAY Sports
The BCS and the Football Bowl Association would like to gloss it over, but this year's bowl average attendance was down to levels not seen since the late 70's. It's time to re-think the bowl system, and that should include putting some in places where they've never been before.
I received two press releases yesterday in the interest of sunshine pumping the bowl system. One was from the Football Bowl Association (FBA), with a headline stating that "More Than Half Of All Bowls Show Increase in Attendance". The other was from the BCS announcing "BCS Games Rise In Attendance and Viewership", touting:
Attendance set a stadium record with 80,120 fans for the BCS National Championship Game at Sun Life Stadium which bested previous events at the stadium including five Super Bowls and two World Series... Four out of this year's five BCS games showed an attendance increase when compared to last year's results.
The releases stand in stark contrast to an article at AL.com by Jon Solomon stating that bowl attendance declined to it's lowest average since 1978-79. Combine that with a comment from Stewart Mandel, below, and you get the idea as Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany points out in the same article, something has to change.
One of the most stunning numbers of the 2013 bowl season was the announced attendance at the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl: 54,178. A game featuring Florida, an SEC powerhouse ranked No. 3 in the country, produced the 79-year-old event's lowest attendance total since 1939. Gators fans purchased just 6,500 of their allotted 17,500 tickets to the game.
The Big Ten's current bowl affiliation includes the bowl Nebraskans are familiar with, the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, along with the Outback Bowl in Tampa, the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Arizona, Car Care Bowl in Houston, Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit, and of course the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
The marquee bowls (besides the Rose) are in Florida, and after that you've got a selection of Houston, Dallas, and Detroit. That's not exactly what I'd call a great selection of travel destinations.
It's well known that universities must eat the bowl tickets they don't sell, often at marquee prices, leading to a potential hefty loss. ESPN doesn't care whether or not fans attend the games as they're still going to make money on TV revenue. Note that the games garnered enough TV exposure to justify having 35 bowls.
Obviously, it's time to rethink the whole system, which will happen, as Mandel points out, the next year.
All this leads to the question I ask in the headline: "Where Would You Go To See A Bowl Game?".
The Pinstripe Bowl in New York City has been mentioned as a possible bowl. While many might balk at attending a cold bowl game, I could handle a trip to New York City before I'd be interested in going to Orlando and waiting in line to see something at Disney World.
I'd make a Rose Bowl trip to see Pasadena and Nebraska in the Rose Bowl or a Holiday Bowl trip to visit San Diego. New Orleans would be a great destination (one of my favorite places), even Nashville sounds compelling, but why stop there?
The bowls were historically created as an excuse for people in cold weather places to make a trip to warm weather destinations, but isn't it time to re-think that? If ESPN can create bowls where none before existed, why not a bowl game in Minneapolis since they'll soon have a shiny new domed stadium? Without looking it up - what attracts more visitors annually - the Mall of America or Disneyworld?
Maybe if they put more bowl games in places closer to fans they'd get more attendance and the universities wouldn't have to eat so many tickets. If it's time to re-think the bowls, then how ‘bout some in places where it isn't so expensive to travel, i.e., closer to the fan bases that'd be interested in attending?
I'll ask again - where would you go to see a bowl game?