Hlas column: Every day is sunny for the bowl committee people, who feed on universities
TEMPE, Ariz. — A well-organized license to print money is what this Fiesta Bowl outfit in greater Phoenix owns.
Tonight’s Insight Bowl is the first of three bowls in three weeks under the Fiesta Bowl’s umbrella, three pińatas stuffed with money for those in charge, with some nice trickle-down going to the locals.
“It’s a $2.6 million economic impact,” beaming Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said about the Insight Bowl before making some wisecracks about the lousy weather back in Missouri and Iowa. “Not a bad deal.”
No, not a bad deal at all for the Fiesta folks and for the bowls and the Valley of the Sun. Not a bad deal to put Mizzou and Iowa on the hook for 11,000 full-priced tickets to their game at Sun Devil Stadium. Missouri sold about 7,200 and Iowa 6,200. The two schools pay for any of the tickets they didn’t sell. So there’s not really a lot of profit in this for the athletic departments themselves. You do get to tell high school recruits you’re at a bowl, though. Which makes you one of 70 FBS teams out of 120.
But it’s not like both teams won’t have ample amounts of fans here this evening. Most simply had the good sense to buy their tickets through other outlets, like Stubhub.com. See, lots of tickets were owned by people who really didn’t want them.
To acquire advance tickets to the Jan. 10 BCS championship game in Glendale, the nice Fiesta Bowl folks made people also purchase tickets to the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl in Glendale and the Insight Bowl. The price: A mere $670 per person. Isn’t that special?
Well, surprise. Most of the people with BCS title tickets weren’t really interested in getting to the Phoenix area 12 days before that game to see Iowa and Missouri in a contest of far-less importance. So they have dumped their tickets for dirt-cheap in many cases. I fully expect to see people virtually giving them away on Tempe’s Mill Avenue as game-time approaches.
That doesn’t help Iowa and Missouri cover their losses. But hey, they want to play in bowls, right?
Connecticut wants to play in a bowl, too. A big BCS bowl. And it is, in the Fiesta against Oklahoma. One nagging problem: Big East Champ UConn (8-4) has sold only about 4,600 of the 17,500 tickets it is required to buy at an average of over $200 a throw for being in a BCS game. Yikes!
Most Huskies fans are content to stay home and watch their women’s basketball team steamroll everyone. So the school will lose somewhere around $2.5 million for the great honor of playing the Sooners in Arizona.
UConn Coach Randy Edsall won’t sweat it, though, because he gets a $100,000 bonus for taking a team to a BCS bowl. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, according to his latest contract extension, gets that same amount just for guiding the Hawkeyes to any bowl. He would have gotten $250,000 had his team picked off three or four more wins and returned to a BCS game for the second-straight year.
Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel, on the verge of getting his own new extension, challenged Tigers fans to make tracks for Tempe when the bowl pairings were announced a few weeks ago.
“Our fans are the best and I want to be a great traveler for bowl games,” Pinkel said here Monday. “There’s no reason on earth that we can’t.”
Well, other than those pesky things like airfares on relatively short notice, lodging and food. But fans aren’t the only ones who pay. It costs some coin to get bands and cheer squads to these games.
As the book “Death to the BCS” by Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan details, the Outback Bowl charged the University of Iowa $65 per member to give the 346-member Hawkeye Marching Band the opportunity to perform at the game. That’s $22,490, and that was before the costs of transporting, feeding and housing the band.
Very few bowl teams make money from their trips. Florida International moved just 1,000 tickets to Sunday’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Tulsa sold just 800 for its appearance in last Friday’s Hawaii Bowl. Almost every bowl played so far has had at least one school stuck with leftover tickets.
A playoff would produce multiple times more cash than the present bowl system. But what good would it do people like Fiesta Bowl president/CEO John Junker, who pulls down about $600,000 yearly and has helped build quite the profitable, powerful operation here.
There was a good reason Tempe’s Mayor Hallman was all smiles and jokes Monday morning. A football game of little genuine significance is pumping money into his pleasant college town, and Tempe gets a few hours of air time on ESPN to boot.Nope, there won’t be a major-college football playoff for a long time. Those with money and power tend to know how to keep it.