[Note: May only contain negligible amounts of critical comparison and/or analysis.]
Long story short I'm bored and want to see precisely how the Pac-10 bowls stack up against the slates of other conferences. I'll put the biggest emphasis on exposure (TV ratings, which I think are determined more by time slot than anything else, though it's an arguable point) followed by payout and trailed distantly by prestige. (Which I basically view as bullshit punditspeak of no actual value. The Sun Bowl has prestige, unfortunately nobody watches it.)
So basically what I mean to find out is: how many people are watching Pac-10 Bowls, how many people are watching other BCS conference tie-in bowls, how the Pac-10 is being remunerated for its tie ins, and how everybody else is getting paid. Comparison might get a little scattershot, since I'm going only on last year's bowls and tie ins, so I'll tend towards comparing tie ins at the top of the various ladders. One particular note is that I'll be treating the Poinsettia Bowl as a Pac-10 tie in, because its ratings indicate that it should be.
First things first, a spreadsheet! (I would have done what all the popular kids do and posted a screenshot, but this is works as a subtle way of getting y'all to fill out my relentlessly halfassed conclusions with your own insight by allowing you to screw around with/add to the raw data.)
Hey, not bad. The Pac-10 ties in to two of the top five rated non-BCS-BCS-conference-tie-in bowls (hereafter referred to simply as bowls), which makes us slightly less clever than the Big 10, who tie in to 3 but more clever than the SEC which ties into the most watched bowl but nothing else in the top 6. The Big 12 and ACC slightly edge us for exposure in the top 5 but we're right there with them.
Herein, though, we come across a curious reality: the tail of "prestige" is wagging the dog of "getting people to watch an important team from your conference." The Champ Sports Bowl, which pulled a monster 5.2 rating, played host to the third non-BCS qualifier from the ACC and the fourth! non-BCS qualifier from the Big Ten. The Big Ten is a prime position to get all of its ready-for-primetime teams in high ratings bowls, and yet they send their second non-BCS qualifier to the Outback Bowl, which has 60% of the viewership of the Champ Sports. Granted, the Outback Bowl has a higher payout, but what that indicates to me is that the Big Ten and/or ACC need to get the Champ Sports Bowl to the table and negotiate a higher payout.
The best example of a similar behavior in the Pac-10 is evident in sending the conference's second qualifier to the Sun Bowl, which had worse ratings than Maryland vs. Nevada for Tedford's sake. Is the payout good? Yes (Not great, though), but almost certainly not worth the exposure lost by not placing Oregon State in the Emerald Bowl, besides the fact that the payout shouldn't be an issue because the conference should be making sure that profitable bowls (and I assume high ratings correlate pretty well to profit) make significant payouts. I would suggest that the Pac-10 reorder its entire bowl slate, with the Holiday Bowl leading followed by the Emerald, Poinsettia, and Las Vegas Bowls and with the devil taking the hindmost (the Sun and Armed Forces Bowls).
- On the other hand... Oh for Tedford's sake. The Pac-10 is getting hosed, here. The average payout of the Pac's top 5 tie ins is about 1.3 million. The average payout for the SEC's top 5 tie ins is over 3 million. Of course, the SEC has a better average rating than the Pac-10 across its top 5 tie ins but it's nowhere near the same margin: the SEC bowls average a 4.1 rating while the Pac-10 bowls average a 3.52. Now, I'm sure there are reasons for the SEC bowls to have bigger payouts other than just TV ratings--attendance, investment from various commerce organizations who profit from bowl-related tourism, etc., but the fact that the SEC beats the Pac-10 well over 2 to 1 is pathetic and representative of a failure on the part of the conference negotiators. You want to catch up the other conferences in income, Pac 10? Start by making sure you're getting the market value for your teams in the post season.
Conclusions! You know, for all the bitching, our bowl lineup has potential. Pundits and Jon Wilner comment thread types will latch on to the lack of January 1st bowl games (as if New Year's Day means anything anymore) and will mock the very idea of the Emerald Bowl, but they're missing the point by a wide margin. A team goes into the post season looking to get paid and get exposure, and while it's nice to say "went to a January 1st bowl game," I think people tend to remember the games they actually saw, which means the Pac-10 is or at least could be in pretty good shape, and could be in even better shape if we strike a deal with the Alamo Bowl. Meanwhile getting paid seems like it should just be a matter of the Pac figuring out how valuable it is and not stopping until it receives that value from its bowl partners.
In a way, the Pac 10 is in better position than any of its rival conferences because it has the least tradition among its bowl lineup, which means you could just tear the whole system down, rebuild it, and nobody would really notice. Conferences like the SEC and Big Ten are more encumbered by longstanding relations, which causes me to speculate that it would take an inordinate amount of work to, say, move the participants of the Outback Bowl (currently the #2 of both the Big Ten and SEC, drawing a 3.1 rating last year) up to the greener pastures of the Champ Sports and Cotton Bowls respectively.
In any case, Larry Scott: You have your marching orders.
[Facts, figures, et cetera all SIC, as per my last FanPost. Now I'm going to go make guacamole.]