It is an often and well-known fact that the Pac-10 has disappointing bowl affiliations. Instead of wallowing in this fact, I tried to outsmart the people who organize college football for a living by conceiving a better idea over my lunch break. Sparked by the recent talk of realigning the Pac-10 bowl affiliations, I tried to envision a new bowl game between the match-up I most want to see, the Pac-10 and the SEC.
The recent high-profile SEC – Pac-10 OOC matchups has planted the seeds for a nice rivalry, and I believe the college football world would enjoy pitting the Pac-10 against the SEC. Being in Pac-10 country, I know we would welcome the challenge, and since I frequently wandering through the SEC’s chat rooms I am confident that the SEC would welcome this match-up as well (though I might be confusing the desire to play USC for the desire to play the Pac-10).
As my lunch break progressed I realized that there are many reasons a Pac-10 – SEC matchup does not exist. I eventually concluded my hope is impractical, simply and utterly unfeasible. I’ve stated the reasons at the bottom of this post. Nonetheless, I will continue and state the main idea and reasons that a Pac-10 – SEC Bowl might have worked.
I don’t claim to be the most knowledgable college football fan, but I do believe I have a good grasp of the different issues. I believe that for Bowl games to succeed they need to fulfill two requirements: 1) generate TV ratings, (2) generate ticket sales.
To achieve TV ratings the game would need to provide an intriguing matchup at a marquee time. I believe the Pac-10 and the SEC would be an intriguing matchup, I believe USC vrs Auburn and Arkansas generated interest, as did Tennessee vrs Cal and UCLA. Since my bowl game would require marquee teams from both conferences (I state why later), a matchup of the #2 Pac-10 Team and the #3 SEC team should generate an interesting game. Last year Georgia would have played Oregon, intriguing football indeed. In 2008 Arizona St would have played Florida. In either case, it would be a matchup of Top 15 teams.
With an intriguing match-up, a marquee time is needed. The prestigious bowls are on January 1st. Unfortunately, Jan. 1st is thoroughly saturated with College football, and the networks don’t care to add more games on New Year’s day. Simply put, they don’t have room for more football, a new bowl would only steal viewers from another game, which neither the networks nor college football wants. New Year’s Eve is an option, but for reasons stated in the ticket sales section, I would place the game on the first Friday after New Year’s. I appreciate tradition and hate the fact that new bowls such as the international bowl are occurring after New Years. In my eyes the only bowls worth being played after New Year’s are the BCS bowls. However, I understand why it is occurring and much to my chagrin, I would schedule the bowl game for the first Friday after New Year’s. The bowl game would avoid competition from other college football games and avoid the NFL playoffs on Saturday, while also being within the bowl season and make for an easy ‘long’ weekend to ease travel. Also I believe the host city would prefer a bowl the first Friday in Jan. as it would provide travelers in an otherwise bleak travel period. Most destination cities will be booked during New Years, but the first weekend after, and it becomes dodgey. With greater city interest, is an increased opportunity for a joint venture between the bowl and the city. The Las Vegas and Hawaii bowls weren’t designed to turn a profit, rather the cities worked hard to develop them to keep the hotel rooms filled during a weak travel period.
Ticket sales are essential to the success of bowl games, and are the number one reason why the Pac-10 has a bad bowl line-up. Pac-10 teams generally don’t travel well, and aren’t helped by being geographically isolated from the bowl hosting states in Texas and the South. Why would the Capital One bowl schedule a Pac-10 team when they have the Big East, Big-10, ACC, and SEC much closer?
The contributing factors to tickets sales are: intriguing matchup, desire to support team, ease of travel, and the quality of the destination.
In the previous paragraphs I have already established an intriguing matchup. The desire to support one’s team needs to be taken into consideration. Fans like winners, and are more likely to support their team if they are good. Since a considerable amount of travel is required for this bowl game, to gain sufficient fan support the teams would have to be good. Basically, a fan is more likely to travel 1,000 miles if the team finished 9-3 and is ranked in the top 15, rather than finishing 6-6 and is unranked. Therefore, winning teams are imperative to motivate the fan base to travel.
Ease of Travel, this is self-explanatory. The easier it is to get to the bowl game, the more tickets will be sold. With both conference footprints in bowl country, neither (particularly the SEC) is motivated to seek a bowl game outside of their home region. I do not believe the SEC would ever schedule a bowl in California or Arizona, they already have quality bowl games within 300 miles, why would they travel west? However, I am proposing a new bowl, and most of the potential bowl destinations are occupied. Furthermore, I am apprehensive of playing the SEC in Atlanta since the Pac-10 don’t travel well and the game would become a virtual home game for the SEC. Far too much of an advantage. Therefore, when I considered potential venues, I wanted it to be within driving range of the SEC, and an easy flight for the Pac-10. Each Pac-10 school is conveniently located near a major airport (save Washington St. and the Oregon schools, Portland sort of counts). The destination would also need to have a major airport, immediately ruling out destinations such as Memphis. Backtracking a bit, this is also a reason why I would schedule the game for the weekend after New Years. Airfare would be much cheaper than if it were during New Years. If you don’t believe me, tickets from L.A. to Cincinnati over the holidays are $100 more than flights from L.A. to London in March. Avoiding the holidays would make travel much more affordable, hence more ticket sales.
Another contributing factor is the destination itself. An attractive city combined with a bowl game will attract more travelers than a bowl game and an unattractive city. This is why most games are scheduled in warm weather locations. It is easier to lure people to L.A. San Diego, New Orleans, and Orlando than it is Seattle, Detroit, or Philadelphia.
Potential Host cities
Quick note: A Bowl worthy facility was a prerequisite. I’ve been to some but not all these cities, my understanding of them is based on personal experience and what I’ve heard. The distance to travel for SEC teams is based on the distance from Birmingham, Alabama (near the heart of SEC country).
San Antonio – The location that inspired this post, by wanting to trade the Big-10 for the Pac-10 would provide a sufficient venue, and it is comfortably located between the Pac-10 and SEC footprints. Though centrally located, travel from both the SEC and the Pac-10 would be difficult. San Antonio doesn’t have a large airport serviced with a major airline meaning two flights would be required increasing travel time and cost. The SEC would have to travel 842 miles or approximately a 13 hour drive. Also, why would a bowl based in Texas not have a team from the Big-12? It doesn’t make much sense, unfortunately you can apply this logic to all of these bowls. On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best, I’d give San Antonio a 4 for destination, 3 for venue and 1 for travel (8 total).
Dallas – The Cowboys shiny new stadium would be a welcomed venue, and makes me more likely to attend. As a destination city I’ve heard mixed reviews. Has some nightlife, but not many icons or other quintessential tourist stops. The city has some museums, but nothing fantastic that everyone HAS to see. Dallas has a large airport serviced by major airlines, and should be a breeze for Pac-10 travel. The SEC would have to travel 635 miles which is a little under a 10 hour drive, still a bit too far for my taste. Furthermore, the Cotton Bowl already exists, and hosts an SEC team, redundancy leads to the city losing its uniqueness and diminishes the city as a destination. Destination 3, Venue 5, Travel 4 (12).
Houston – My last Texas based proposal is Houston. As a destination, I have heard mainly average to negative things about it. The Texan’s stadium would provide a nice venue, and travel would be more difficult. Houston’s airport is not as big, and the main carrier (continental) is not as big as American in west coast cities. The SEC would actually have to drive farther (again, from Birmingham) being a 10-3/4 hour or 701 mile drive. Yes, the Texas bowl resides in Houston, but is a lower-tier bowl and would not compete with my proposed bowl. Destination 2, Venue 4, Travel 3 (9)
St. Louis – The TransAmerica Dome would be a sufficient venue protecting fans from the cold. St. Louis also provides a great middle ground between Pac-10 country and the SEC. Travel to St. Louis is definitely easy. The airport is large, and is supported by a major airlines, thus the Pac-10 should be able to fly their directly and cheaply. The SEC is 512 miles away, which is just under 8 hours and the location that I would reasonably consider most drivable. The problem is the city as a destination. Sure, the St. Louis Arc is interesting, but beyond that there isn’t anything to do in St. Louis. I know this because one of my good friends from high school moved there, and is eagerly awaiting his first chance to move away. Destination 1, Venue 3, Travel 5 (9)
Chicago – Great city, great destination, cold winter. Travel to and from the Pac-10 should be simple thanks to O’hare airport. Chicago is also closer to Birmingham than Houston is. It is 657 miles away and a 10 hour car ride, which isn’t great for those in the SEC. The problem is potential venue. Soldier Field is a classic football venue, located at the heart of Chicago, only it’s January and its outdoors (Wrigley Field might also be fun). There is a reason bowls are scheduled in warm weather, fans don’t want to freeze. Particularly, fans adjusted to California, Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. I’m deducting two points for venue and one point for destination because of the weather. Destination 4, Venue 2, Travel 4 (10)
Indianapolis – Shares many of the same traits as St. Louis, only it is more boring, and harder to fly into. It is, however, a slightly quicker drive from the SEC (478 miles for 7.5 hours). The RCA Dome (is that what it is still called) would be a suitable venue for a bowl game. Destination 1, Venue 3, Travel 3 (7)
New York – An interesting choice seeing that it is on the opposite coast from the Pac-10, and a long drive from the SEC. It is a great destination. Coming from the west coast it is easier and cheaper to find a flight to NY than it is to Houston, Indianapolis, or Atlanta. Seriously, I went to New York from San Francisco last year for $240 dollars, for me to fly to Cincinnati at the same time it is $310. New York is 978 miles translating to an epic 15 hour car ride. I am not an expert in southeastern air travel at all, however, I would suspect a decent number of flights fly from New Orleans, Nashville, Atlanta, and Florida to New York to allow for a reasonably easy and cheap flight. New York is also big enough to imagine a small but substantial number of fans already in the area. The venue would be lacking. Both the Giants and Jets play in the Meadowlands, which are outdoors, cold, and difficult to get to from Manhattan. There are no domes in the area. I am deducting some venue points due to the cold, but believe the destination value of New York outweighs the negatives of the cold. Destination 5, Travel 4, Venue 1 (10)
Washington D.C. – Again a world-class destination with a vibrant nightlife and bountiful supply of sites and museums, plus an easily procured flight from the West Coast. Only D.C. is a bit closer and a bit warmer than New York (735 miles, 11.3 hours). Again, the venue poses a problem. RFK stadium is a sensible location, but would still be exposed to the January cold. Destination 4, Travel 3, Venue, 1 (9)
Miami - Finally, a warm weather delight! Miami as a destination has a great nightlife, a beach with no waves, but warm water, and an ample amount of activities for the average tourist. Travel to Miami is a bit of a challenge. Pac-10 cities like L.A. and San Francisco should have some direct flights available as Miami does have a large airport, but the likes of Seattle, Portland, and Phoenix would likely have to connect at least once, probably through either Dallas or Chicago. Plus, Seattle and Miami are as far apart as you can get within the contiguous United States. The SEC has no picnic either, at 754 miles from Birmingham only New York and San Antonio are farther away. As for venue, either Dolphin Stadium or the Orange Bowl would suffice. Neither is stellar, but both work. Destination 5, Venue 3, Travel 2, (10).
In conclusion, my proposal would be to have the #3 SEC team play the #2 Pac-10 team on the first Friday after New Year’s day. The bowl would be hosted in either: Dallas (12), Chicago (10), New York (10), Miami (10), Washington D.C. (9), St. Louis (9), Houston (9), San Antonio (8), or Indianapolis (7). My hope would be that this arrangement would generate enough interest from: the networks, the fans (to travel), and the host city to generate a successful bowl.
As I said previously, this bowl is impractical, and there are many reasons why this game doesn’t already exist.
1) Both conferences lay within or near natural bowl destinations. SEC states host 13 of the 34 bowl games. Pac-10 states host 6 bowl games (this excludes Las Vegas which is an easy and simple destination for 3 of thePac-10’s metropolitan areas.) With more games than bowl eligible teams, why would the SEC leave the South or the Pac-10 leave the West?
2) The SEC has no motivation to realign bowls. They have manageable travel distances, to warm weather and fun cities, with bowls that have the biggest payouts in college football. I lost my print out detailing the bowl line-ups and their associated pay out, but if I remember correctly the Holiday Bowl (the second biggest Pac-10 bowl) has a payout that would place it near 5th in the SEC.
3) Bowls don’t want Pac-10 teams because we lack the passion and travelling fan base to sell tickets. I tried to compensate for this fact, but if a new bowl is to start up with the SEC in Dallas, Chicago, New York or Miami, the host city and bowl organizers would much prefer a team from the Big-12, Big-10, Big East, or ACC.
4) Even if the payouts are big the travel cost to send a team that far are enormous.
5) These are just a few of the main reasons why a Pac-10 – SEC bowl wouldn’t work, other problems persist like scheduling the game at a marquee time to grab both West coast and East coast viewers.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. If you disagree on the day the game is played, am passionate about a potential city, or have a different city to suggest, please let me know. I enjoy other people’s opinions and believe they will help me become more informed. Also, if you believe my method and logic is flawed, also feel free to let me know.