Saturday, February 09, 2013

Bowl Game Subsidies and BGSU....

There has been a lot of controversy on campus about spending, and we're not wading into that.  I read a comment about BG's "failed" bowl game, and I decided to look around and see what I could find about it.

What I did find was pretty interesting....let's say, the other side of the MAC's 7 bowl teams in 2012.  The Columbus Dispatch looked at bowl finances within the MAC.

It is pretty sobering.  I think a lot of people view bowl games as a money-making effort for the schools.  ln fact, as the Commissioner says in the story, your real hope is just to break even.

You can start with NIU in the Orange Bowl, the one game where you would think you were assured of a big payday.  There are a number of contractually required expenses that increase costs, as below.

The Orange Bowl contract requires Northern Illinois to cover $2.4 million in ticket costs and gives the school a $500,000 hotel obligation. Its team must stay at a designated hotel for seven days, and the band is contractually obligated to a minimum three-day stay.

The article mentions similar issues at other bowl games, as well.  For example, the bowl might have a contract with a certain bus company which a team is required to use, even at a higher cost.

In fact, Virginia Tech lost $400K on the 2011 and was bailed out by the ACC and UConn lost $1.2M on the Fiesta Bowl, and they didn't get bailed out.

Steinbrecher got the Presidents of the MAC to agree to subsidize NIU to the tune of $4M to ensure they were little not bankrupted by their prosperity.

The news for Falcons fans is that the conference also was paid $400K to cover bowl losses.  Other MAC schools were also subsidized.  Here's a quote from a BG official.

“It assures teams that we’re not going to take a (financial) bath. It’s not a red-ink budget to go to a bowl,” said Jim Elsasser, associate athletic director for internal affairs at Bowling Green.

This is not the picture you get when you think of bowl games.  I wrote that when Kirk Herbstreit said it was a joke that NIU was in the Orange Bowl that the bowl system is a joke, but not because of NIU.    These games are essentially television programs.  ESPN needs programming and they offer the teams what they dearly want, which is television exposure.

I guess what fans need to understand is that the teams are more or less paying for --or buying--that exposure, either directly or through their conference.

The fans are certainly realizing what is going on.  The USA Today reported that bowl attendance has been going down every year since 2008-09.  Even larger schools like Florida are having a hard time selling their allotment...both because of cheap online tickets and because of a kind of fatigue...your team is in a bowl every single season and the economy is not what it once was.

Looking at BG more specifically, the Washington Business journal reports that the Military Bowl had its lowest attendance in 5 years and drew a 1.3 rating overnight.  For ESPN, that rating is better than they would have had for any other weekday program, but it is pretty soft.

In fact, the Military Bowl had the smallest in attendance in 7 years for a bowl game, according to

Here's the thing.  I just don't think this is sustainable.  And I truly wonder whether there is a payoff for a this.  The MAC sacrifices a lot for TV exposure--including most weekend games in November--and this just falls onto the list.  I understand that we feel strongly that it is good for the program, and that's fine.  Just so people understand that it comes at a cost, and if you read through this article (and the USA Today) article, you have to wonder how long football can continue to sustain this many bowl games.

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