The Business of Sports

College Football's Golden Bowl Series


1. College Football's BCS: Who's the real Animal House?

Whether you favor college football's Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings—and if you're like most of us college football fans, you don't—you can't deny the positive financial impact that the five BCS bowls and their attendant mega TV rights deals have had on the BCS conferences' member schools.

That is, unless you're authors Dan Wetzel and Jeff Passan, whose Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series was published last week, ahead of the 2010 season's first BCS rankings. In their much-discussed book, Yahoo! Sports' () Wetzel and Passan present reasons why the BCS games and all college bowl games need to be replaced by a playoff system, including: the NCAA's ferocious grab for public money in cities hosting bowl games; the oft-raised cries of unfairness to non-BCS conferences, especially teams (Boise State, TCU) that win every game with no BCS title shot; and the notion that a March Madness-esque playoff would bring a shared $750 million to all 120 NCAA schools and not leave 106 athletic departments operating in the red, as happened in 2009.

Wetzel and Passan do make a compelling argument on behalf of the smaller conferences and schools, clearly the biggest proponents for change. But if you're Doug Neidermeyer and Greg Marmalard in the BCS' Omega Theta Pi, as opposed to Pinto and Flounder in the non-BCS Delta house, you're looking at a big pile of cash.

A Big Pile Indeed

Take the Southeastern Conference. The SEC is the premier conference in terms of BCS Championship trophies. It just distributed $209 million to its 12 members for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, a tidy $17.3 million each. About $150 million of that windfall came from football through TV contracts, bowl payouts, and the SEC Championship Game.

The SEC takes in up to $41 million in game ticket sales every week. According to the Birmingham Business Journal, South Carolina anticipates bringing in $16.5 million in ticket sales this year, while Florida raked in $16.8 million in 2009. School records show Florida's football revenue jumped $7.2 million, to $61.3 million, after the Gators' title in 2008.

Georgia averages $1.8 million to $2.9 million per game in ticket sales, and Tennessee, with a stadium that holds 102,455 screaming Vols fans, looked to collect $27 million in 2009 ticket sales.

Of course, that's still not in the NFL's league. So far in the 2010 season, with an average price of $76.5 x 15 games a week x average attendance of 67,695, that equals more than $77 million in weekly ticket revenue. But given that more than twice as many teams are in the NFL than in the SEC, the SEC is actually making more money per capita from ticket sales.

Alabama holds the BCS title, and the Crimson Tide is also the champion of SEC game-day revenue. Average secondary market tickets to the Nov. 26 Alabama-Auburn game are already going for $455 apiece, according to TicketCity.com. And two professors with the university's Center for Business and Economic Research found that a 'Bama football game has a $21.8 million economic impact on the state—the seven home games in 2008, they found, generated a total of $152.8 million.

That, of course, was before the school's current national title. Somewhere, Neidermeyer is cackling.

2. College Kids Decide to Fix Up the House

Another nice side effect of all the BCS-generated revenue is being able to afford to remodel. No facilities undergo more renovations than college football stadiums—in many cases, college stadiums represent a piece of school history that simply can't be torn down and replaced. In recent weeks, a few universities announced plans to upgrade.

For starters, the University of Nebraska announced plans for a $55.5 million renovation of Memorial Stadium. The plan calls for Nebraska to add 5,000 seats, boosting the stadium's total to more than 90,000 and making Memorial Stadium one of the 10 biggest venues in college football. The upgrades are meant to coincide with Nebraska's move to the Big Ten Conference, and after the Cornhuskers' loss to Texas at home last Saturday, Husker fans and designers are no doubt delighted that the Horns' garish burnt orange will no longer flood the Memorial Stadium seating bowl.

In Seattle, a renovated Washington Huskies football stadium is the cornerstone of a completely remodeled athletic district for U Dub, as the joint is called. The $250 million upgrade of Husky Stadium will be the most expensive renovation of a sports facility in NCAA history—but alas, no roof in the rainy Pacific Northwest.

Last week, the Pasadena City Council approved $152 million in funding for a renovated Rose Bowl, much to the delight of main tenant UCLA. The three-year renovation will result in widened tunnels, additional toilets and concession areas, new luxury and premium seating, and presumably, significant geriatric retrofitting for the 88-year-old Granddaddy of Them All.

Finally, while Rutgers University is not planning to renovate Rutgers Stadium at present, the New Jersey school just got a healthy taste of what a new stadium can bring. The Scarlet Knights earned a school record $2.7 million from last Saturday's football game against Army at New Meadowlands Stadium, compared with the $1.5 million usually taken in for home stands. A Rutgers official indicated that the school is in talks with both the New Meadowlands Stadium and Yankee Stadium for future games at those sites.

Rick Horrow is a leading expert in the business of sports. As chief executive of Horrow Sports Ventures, he has been the architect of 103 deals worth more than $13 billion in sports and urban infrastructure projects. He is also the sports business analyst for CNN, Fox Sports, and the Fox Business Channel. Karla Swatek is vice-president of Horrow Sports Ventures and co-author of Beyond the Box Score: An Insider's Guide to the $750 Billion Business of Sports (February 2010).

Rick_horrow
Rick Horrow is a leading expert in the business of sports. As chief executive officer of Horrow Sports Ventures, he has been the architect of 103 deals worth more than $13 billion in sports and urban infrastructure projects. He is also the sports business analyst for CNN, Fox Sports, and the Fox Business Channel. Karla Swatek is vice-president of Horrow Sports Ventures and co-author of Beyond the Box Score: An Insider's Guide to the $750 Billion Business of Sports (2010). Horrow is also the host of Sportfolio, a new program on Bloomberg TV that airs Wednesday nights at 9 pm ET.

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