For those clamoring for a Division I football playoff system and expressing critical indifference to the current bowl system where teams with losing records are “rewarded” with a bowl invite, be patient – this BCS cartel controlled system itself may be its eventual undoing.
Attendance is down – way down – at post season bowl games. The Military Bowl played December 27 in Washington, D.C. between San Jose State and Bowling Green had an embarrassing 17,835 fans seated at frigid RFK Stadium. Moreover, when even football powerhouses with supposed “rabid” fan followings such as Nebraska and Florida only sell a small portion of their bowl ticket allotment (which the schools must underwrite), there’s an obvious problem.
USA Today, which has tracked college football bowl attendance for nearly 10 years, reports college football bowl game attendance this season is down an average of over 3,000 fans per game. Dwindling attendance costs the schools money, and scares away sponsors who want people to watch these games on television.
This problem is directly correlated to the fact that bowls outside the BCS championship system are perceived as meaningless thus the increased apathy even from the most loyal fans.
Despite an impending “expanded” playoff system (if you can characterize going from two to four teams “expanded”) and its significant new TV contract, the continued bowl attendance drop and significant financial losses for bowl participants (as they are forced to eat large blocks of unsold tickets) will result in a logical move to either an expanded playoff system on the order of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament or a restructuring of the FBS creating a tiered system splintering the haves (BCS cartel schools) from the have-nots.
This playoff solution will not only save many of the bowls but also significantly ramp up interest and ticket sales for bowls (and the schools involved) across the board. It may also avoid likely litigation related to a splintering of FBS schools.
How would such a system work to save the schools and the bowls?
Stick with the current lineup of games. Have 32 bowls, invite 64 teams, and play the games over a five week period. Just as you have with basketball, use the minor bowls in earlier rounds. This “December Madness” would generate national interest in each bowl game, significantly increase the stakes for all participants and culminate in a national championship game that would have everyone on the edge of their seats.
We already wait five to six weeks between the end of the regular college football season and the start of bowl games. Playing a tournament during the December holiday break would alleviate conflicts with class time, build excitement, sell tickets, and validate who is the best team in the country.
It works for basketball, where the NCAA tournament does have weak teams playing but high levels of interest, sold out arenas, and blockbuster television ratings (and an even more lucrative TV deal).
Without this solution, aspiring programs such as UMass which struggled to not only win games in this, it’s first year in FBS, but also break 10,000 attendance level for home games will face major PR and financial reckoning fairly quickly even if they do achieve success via a bowl berth.
The outcry from students and faculty will soon reach a crescendo as schools chase the delusion of FBS riches and exposure only to realize that the pot at the end of the rainbow is not filled with gold but a huge tab for their drunken folly into FBS.