I should stop being surprised when national media types try to explain why some bowl games struggle to sell tickets. It's not difficult to understand, but that doesn't stop media types from taking wild guesses. And being wrong. Monday, it was Matt Hayes of the Sporting News trying to explain the lackluster attendance at the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando:
Anyone who says CFP doesn’t impact rest of bowls, look at this game in Orlando. Would be a big regular season game. 30K people there now.— Matt Hayes (@Matt_HayesSN) December 29, 2014
The playoff isn't the reason. It's the location. It's 1,269 miles from Norman, OK to Orlando; it's 551 miles from Clemson, SC to Orlando. Neither is a particularly desirable drive, so if you want to go, you are looking at flying.
During the holidays. On short notice.
That means that airline tickets are a much bigger expense for fans than game tickets...and that's something that gets people to stay home if the game isn't particularly meaningful.
A similar issue is occurring at the Rose Bowl, where tickets are being sold on the secondary market below face value.
The Rose Bowl has sold out all but once the 20 years. Oregon-FSU tickets are readily available. http://t.co/Hv1igWLaeM— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) December 22, 2014
Eugene, OR is 860 miles from Pasadena; Tallahassee, FL is 2,252 miles. So again, this means fans will be flying. And with a national championship game coming up the week after, people are simply saving their money and staying home.
But...the media points out that this isn't affecting Sugar Bowl ticket sales. Again, this is easy to explain: it's 290 miles from Tuscaloosa, AL to New Orleans. That's a 4 hour drive; considering TSA security, it's faster to drive than fly...and noticeably cheaper. And if you are an Alabama fan in Mobile, it's only 120 miles. You actually could drive there that morning and drive home after the game.
Location, location, location. That's why the Texas Bowl in Houston between Texas and Arkansas was a sellout. And why you can get Orange Bowl tickets on the secondary market for less than a fast food combo meal.
If fans can drive, they can split the cost of a tank or two of gas and get to the game for under $100. If they have to fly, you are looking at airfares of $300 or more a person. Do the math: four people in a car for $20 a person, or four airline tickets at ten times that amount.
That's why some bowl games struggle to sell tickets. And one reason why the semifinal games in the playoff will move on campus eventually. Bigger stadiums, easier ticket sales. The bowls will still exist. But it'll be tough for the playoff to pass up the home field ticket sales.
What's the other? Logistics. Specifically, getting ready to play another game after a bowl game. Florida State has arranged for multiple drivers so that their equipment truck can leave Pasadena on New Year's night and drive non-stop to get all of the Seminoles' equipment back to Tallahassee for a Saturday practice.
It won't happen right away, mind you. Contracts are already signed, which commit the playoffs to bowl games.