TAKE 2: Bowl finances usually don't add up
Daily Chronicle sports editor John Sahly and sports reporter Steve Nitz spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their 2012 Take 2 column, they discuss Northern Illinois’ GoDaddy.com Bowl deficit and the bowl system as a whole.
Nitz: John, readers who picked up the Daily Chronicle sports section Thursday read that after the payouts and expenses from the Godaddy.com Bowl, Northern Illinois had a deficit of $161,558.
The NIU athletic department certainly wasn’t helped out by the fact that the game wasn’t played until Jan. 8. All things considered, how do you think NIU made out financially?
Sahly: I think to those who are upset about NIU losing so much money on a bowl trip, there are some mitigating factors in NIU’s favor. First, because the game was so late on the bowl calendar, the school had to house and feed a number of players, which is a significant cost. The other is that these bowl games force the schools to bring the band and cheerleaders and provide entertainment, and in most cases, buy a ticket for the seat they perform from during the game. That cost NIU about $60,000 alone, and the athletic department has no say in that.
That said, there have been a number of well-written and well-documented pieces on why universities continue to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, for what is propped up as a “reward” for college football team’s regular-season performance. Yet, in terms of exposure, it’s not adding up. The GoDaddy.com Bowl got one of the worst TV ratings of all of the bowls. It started after an NFL Sunday and didn’t end until Monday. It cost NIU $161,558.
I don’t think that universities, especially the ones that go to low-rated games such as the GoDaddy.com Bowl, are getting their money’s worth. What do you think?
Nitz: I think it’s unfortunate universities such as NIU are losing more than $150,000 while these bowls enjoy nonprofit status and have executive directors making six-figure salaries.
I do think the school benefits and gets exposure. First of all, the games are on national TV, which is good for any university, especially schools from nonautomatic qualifying conferences.
Before NIU played in the Silicon Valley Football Classic after the 2004 season, the Huskies had gone 20 years without playing in a bowl game. Because of it’s recent success, NIU has gone to six bowls in the past eight seasons. That does put the football program out there and boost its prestige. At the same time, recruits want to play for teams that are going to be in the postseason, so heading to bowls helps in that aspect as well.
Here was my main problem with the GoDaddy.com Bowl, something you already touched on. It was played Jan. 8, the same day two NFL wild-card games took place.
Another negative for the the game was that it was played after the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta bowls. Keep in mind, this is a contest between teams from the Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences. Yet it was played after these high-profile games.
Is it me, or is bowl season a little too spread out these days? Other bowls played after the BCS games were the Cotton Bowl (Jan. 6) and BBVA Compass Bowl (Jan. 7).
Sahly: It’s far too spread out, and I think you’ll see the college presidents, commissioners and conferences address that soon, along with eliminating 6-6 teams from bowl eligibility, which are two good moves for the long-term health of the sport.
Speaking of good moves, the momentum and multiple proposals are in place to eliminate the automatic qualifying standard and possibly begin a four-team playoff starting in 2014 to determine a true national champion. How do you think that affects MAC programs such as NIU?
Nitz: At this point, I don’t think a playoff will affect the MAC at all. A MAC team never has appeared in a BCS bowl, and it’s highly unlikely a school from the conference would be able to crack a four-team playoff.
However, here’s my prediction on the future of college football and how a playoff will eventually involve the MAC. It looks like the four-team playoff is going to happen. After it gets under way, the ticket prices will be ridiculous, TV ratings will be gigantic and networks will be paying top dollar to televise these games.
After a few years of a four-team playoff, everyone involved who is basically printing money will want more. Eventually, you’ll see an eight-team playoff and possibly one that goes to 16 teams where every conference has an automatic bid. We probably won’t see a MAC team in a playoff unless, or until, it goes to 16 teams. Certainly, it’s not out of the question, though. There was serious BCS talk for NIU in 2003 and Ball State in 2008 before both teams faltered down the stretch.
John, what’s your take on the future of college football’s postseason?
Sahly: I think the model you described, the “Death to the BCS” model, is the one that eventually will take shape over time. I’d like to see playoff games on campus sites. If that system was in place this season, NIU would have traveled to possibly Oklahoma State or Stanford for a first-round game.
To me, that’s way more exciting and better for college football than the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Less expensive, too.
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