BCS Bowl Trips: Is the cost fair?

December 6, 2011

Political Theory


A day after the BCS bowl selections, schools begin selling their allotment of tickets and fans make plans to attend the game.  However, it has been proven that many public Universities absorb financial losses to send their team to the bowl game.  When a team is chosen to attend a BCS game, the school is required to purchase a block of tickets and pay for the hotel rooms that the bowl arranged.  This requirement presents two big issues.  Firstly, not all schools can sell their allotment of tickets. The school is required to pay for the tickets that it’s fanbase doesn’t purchase. Secondly, the hotel and the duration of the stay is decided by the bowl. This means a school can’t save on their trip by choosing a cheap hotel and shortening their stay. Conferences will allot a certain amount of money to any team that gets chosen to attend a BCS bowl game.  Even with the help, schools can still lose a substantial amount of money.

For example, UConn lost $1.7 million in it’s trip to the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.  It couldn’t sell 14,729 of it’s 17,500 tickets (http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/09/26/20110926bcs-bowl-games-teams-lose-money.html).  This lack of ticket sales cost the school $2.9 million dollars.  However, schools will recoup some of their losses in the coming years.  The BCS pays the conferences of the teams that play in their bowl games, and then later the conferences will be able to pay it’s schools more money.  But the problem is still evident that schools are forced to take on huge financial losses after athletic success. Is this fair to all eligible schools?

Ticket sales are entirely dependent on a school’s fans, alumni, and students.  As fanbases vary from school to school, ticket sales will also vary.  Although it’s conference made significant contributions, Boise State was able to sell most of it’s tickets in both of it’s trips to BCS bowl games which helped Boise State earn over a million dollars each trip.  Boise State was able to earn national recognition for their good season and also made money by making it to a BCS game.  UConn lost money and didn’t come close to winning their most recent BCS game.

What are viable solutions to make sure teams don’t have to lose money after a successful season?  Some teams that make a BCS bowl will earn money while others lose a substantial amount of money.  In trying to make programs equal, programs shouldn’t be penalized if their fans can’t attend the game.  But who should shoulder the burden of selling tickets, the bowl or the teams playing? It’s a tough situation, which leaves some teams in the red after having a successful football season.

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10 Comments on “BCS Bowl Trips: Is the cost fair?”

  1. jacobdockser Says:

    I agree with you that it is unfair for schools to absorb loses, but it should also be recognized that schools are simply extended invitations to play in bowl games and not required to attend and participate in them. That being said, I think that the BCS should guarantee any loses that a school such as UConn should have. This is only fair to the athletic departments, most of which, struggle to break even, while the BCS makes absurd amounts of money each year. Ideally, we can destroy the BCS and have some sort of playoffs, but for now thats just wishful thinking.

  2. benjadler Says:

    I believe that the best solution besides a playoff is to change the location of certain bowls or make it so teams can play on a more centrally located neutral site. The current bowl system is fun and allows a lot of good teams with 3-5 losses a chance to go play another game, give the athletes a great experience, and create interesting matchups with other teams as conferences fight for bragging rights for who is the overall best conference.
    The change of location is key for teams to be able to easily attend bowl games. After all, it is pretty tough for a Connecticut football fan (who is not used to football success) to travel cross-country to Arizona to watch his team get blown out (since no one predicted a Huskies win) vs. Oklahoma. However, if the game was maybe in Ohio, a state with plenty of places to host a bowl game, maybe more fans would have made the journey. I believe that the location of bowls should rotate and matchups should also be picked based on geography, outside of the title game, of course.

  3. goldman13 Says:

    The bowl system is inherently unequal, and the problem with losing money that you describe is only yet another aspect of its inefficient and problematic nature. The BCS bowl system allows for higher ranked teams to be elected to bowl games over lower ranked teams (keep in mind, a lower ranking is better). The BCS bowl system also allows for the actual sponsors of the bowls to weigh in on who will be playing in their event.

    Take, the Sugar Bowl, for example. While Michigan may have proved throughout the season that it is worthy of recognition in a bowl game, we were chosen for perhaps not-so-right reasons. The Sugar Bowl is allowed to select an “at-large” team to compete, and this team is often chosen based on its football program’s reputation, its fan base, and the revenue that it can generate. Rawls would undoubtedly tag this as unequal.

    However, your argument about money/teams generating a loss after being selected for a BCS game seems to be a more minor problem. If a team is good enough to get to a BCS bowl, but can’t sell their tickets, then i believe that that school is doing something wrong.

  4. weimarj Says:

    Even though the teams are just extended an invitation when was the last time a team actually turned down a bowl bid. I think the best solution to this is to get rid of the bowl system. They make obscene amounts of money. Or to completely reconstruct the way the bowl system is run. To make sure that the schools make money, and the bowl games make less of a prophet. For example not forcing schools to buy and sell tickets, forcing them to choose hotels for set times, and paying for transportation to those bowl games.

  5. jpstern Says:

    I am personally not a fan of the BCS system. I believe that a playoff system would make the league much more equal and make for some great football. We could see underdogs knocking off the leaders, when in our current system that can’t happen. While I believe that the BCS system isn’t a good idea to determine the champion, a like the idea of a series of bowl games that are solely to showcase the teams talent. Currently the bowl games other then the national championship hold no significance other then proving that the team is strong and could have a big future. This should continue, but why not leave it to the athletic department of the eligible schools to arrange these games to showcase their schools talent if they deem necessary instead of leaving teams like UConn out 1.7 million that could be used to further the program in better ways then playing the bowl game.

  6. ksoisson Says:

    Schools have an option of accepting bids to bowl games, so I don’t sympathize with schools that lose money. Yes, it would be nice for a smaller fan based school to go to a big bowl game, but it’s all about money. If a school knows that it won’t be able to sell a large chunk of tickets it’s forced to buy, then they shouldn’t accept the bid. However, people argue that no school would ever turn down a BCS bid. Yes, it might seem unfair, but that’s just how the current system works.
    On that note, I believe a playoff system might help to combat this problem. This would mean getting completely rid of the the bowl game system, and then having games held at the school that is playing. The higher seeded team would get the home game and should be able to sell its own tickets.

  7. nnvirani Says:

    Behind every major institution, there are people looking out for its financial welfare. If a school with a winning record did not have the support of its students, faculty and fans throughout the season, what would make them think that they could sell ~17,500 tickets? If I was looking to go to the Sugar Bowl on January 3, 2011, the flight from New York to New Orleans and then from New Orleans to Detroit, combined with the ticket would be upwards of $500. Despite the high price, I can still bet that if you do not hurry, they will sell out. Those higher-ups responsible for deciding to accept a Bowl bid or not would not hesitate in accepting. This is because our fans have shown an unconditional and unbreakable support for our squad, time and time again. Whether it be through merchandise sales, ticket sales or whatever else, The University of Michigan will earn revenue. If a school can produce a profit they can also lose money. This extra cash flow is what gives our players new jerseys, pays staff, improves the stadium, etc.
    Stopping a program from working the economic system to better itself is almost non-American; it is what keeps the system rolling. Michigan’s athletic program undoubtably makes our school seem stronger as a whole. If nothing else, a bowl game would make us more prominent in the national football scene which would increase team support. I do not have sympathy for UConn, they could have opted out of the Bowl bid and saved themselves some money. Sure, they would have ~3000 fans extremely disappointed but they would be $2.9 million dollars richer. Rawls would say that our situation is unfair because we are at an advantage and UConn is at a major disadvantage…but that is just the world we live in.

  8. zrobbins24 Says:

    I am from Connecticut and there was a huge debate back home last year about whether or not UConn should accept the BCS invitation to the Fiesta Bowl. Many argued that it was not worth it; based upon the perceived strength of the two teams (Oklahoma and UConn), there was no chance of a UConn win and it would cost the university millions of dollars in travel expenses. But, perhaps more importantly, it was believed that accepting the bid was going to cost the tax payers in the State a lot of money since UConn is a public institution and tax dollars would have to be used to cover the costs. Furthermore, people view UConn as a basketball university – a perennial powerhouse in both men’s and women’s hoops. Also, UConn was new to top level football. There had not been time for people to really attach themselves to the football team because it was so young and it was overshadowed by basketball. Realistically, however, the university could not turn down the invitation, even though they knew that they were going to lose money. After the team had won the Big East Conference, the school administration felt that they could not tell the players and coaching staff who worked so hard all season that they could not go to the Fiesta Bowl.

    UConn does not have a problem “travelling” in regards to fan attendance. Their two basketball programs always have a tremendous showing of fans at the NCAA tournament and the Final Four for basketball. When it came time for people to buy tickets to go to the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona, however, no one really cared that much, partly because the Huskies were going to be overwhelming underdogs. That would limit ticket sales, and mean there would be less of a payment to UConn to help defray the cost of the trip.

    In regards to fairness, I believe that there are universities that do not have the backing and support that other universities have when travelling across the country to participate in a football game. Also, some universities have more money than others and can afford to lose money with hopes that playing in the game will help them in the future with recruiting (both students and student-athletes) and sale of school merchandise. Also, some schools are private and can spend more money and not have to worry about answering to taxpayers if there is a financial loss.

  9. rmwells3 Says:

    There seems to me to be a saying that is going around these days and I think it succinctly surmises my view of this situation: “it sucks to suck.” At the end of the day, there is no better solution than the one that already exists. Therefore, teams need to pay to make these trips otherwise these bowl games wouldn’t exist. It’s an investment that is supposed to benefit those programs that do make these games. However, in the case of UCONN, programs that aren’t as prestigious as say..Michigan… don’t get the same payoff from going to a bowl game the way other larger touted programs do. If you think about it though, those less prestigious have not spent the time, the money, the investments or “paid the dues” that a program like Michigan has, and as a result, they lose the money to go to a bowl game. I’m sure back in MIchigan’s early days in bowl games it too had its struggles to make lots of money from bowl games.

  10. mzselig Says:

    The BCS Bowl System is a severely flawed machine that, so far as I can see as well as based on this post, makes the most money for the companies that sponsor each bowl. Some schools are lucky enough to have avid fans that will travel to any game to watch their beloved team compete on the national stage while others have the misfortune of not being blessed with such a base and, as UConn showed, take a severe financial hit.
    That being said, the main problem with the whole BCS Bowl system is that it is flawed to the point where many capable teams with strong support and fan bases are not given even the slightest chance at making a BCS Bowl and showing what the team and its fans are capable of. Boise State, whom I am a huge fan of and attended their Fiesta Bowl outings, is a prime example of a team that can rally support from its base as well as play with the “big dogs” of college football. While they lack a clutch kicker that has ruined their chances of potentially playing for the national crown, it is evident that they can muster the support needed to cover the costs of a bowl game.
    My solution to this problem: a playoff system. It would work just like the regular season with the exception that if you lose, you go home. This would eliminate the greed of the bowls and their respective sponsors as well as pit the top teams in the nation against eachother. This would increase the hype of the games and would drive fans of the teams playing to travel as well as attract locals to attend the game who are simply looking for a good football game. The teams would be able to plan their travel and lodging as they please and there would be no need for a huge arena to be loaned or rented as the home stadiums of the teams involved would suffice.
    Yes, I know this is a pipedream as the BCS Bowl System has college football in the choke hold of all choke holds, but I believe it would end this potential for fiscal disaster as well as allow for an even playing field for teams from all conferences and sizes to compete to determine a real national champion.

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