NCAA quietly makes a pro-school ruling with new bowl game ban

If the NCAA cared at all what folks thought of it, it’d go on the porch with a few cold ones, stare up at the night sky, and re-evaluate its decision making from the past week. It might smile at the end of the bottle that it managed to do one thing right, even if few noticed.

“Hey, this paper cut hurts.”

“Well, let me shoot you in the leg. I bet it won’t hurt as much anymore.”

The more ballyhooed NCAA ruling this week on banning satellite camps (which is an absolute joke) overshadowed Monday’s announcement of a ban on new bowl games for three years. As of last year, 63 percent of FBS teams played in bowl games. The percentage number was in the 30s in the late 1990s.

Coming from the camp of “there’s no such thing as too many football games,” it’s hard for me to stomach the latest ruling as a good one, but the reality of it is that it is just that … a good ruling for schools.

Bowl attendance declined for the fifth consecutive year last season, and schools are often in the deep red when it comes to having to fund a team going to a bowl game. Remember, these programs are paying for the room and board for student athletes and staff, as well as having to purchase a set allotment of tickets.

For schools that make the CFB Playoff, there’s an opportunity to finish in the black, but for smaller schools locked into bowl games with significantly lower payouts, it’s a costly exhibition, and the money has to come from somewhere.

Secondary market ticket sales is an issue as well. When these bowl games aren’t filling up to begin with, that secondary ticket market is significantly cheaper for someone that just wants to get into a mostly empty stadium and see a game versus face value.

While the NCAA gets mostly hammered for anything it does these days, often with good cause, it’s hard to pin this decision as a bad one for the schools whom they’re supposed to represent. There are varying opinions on the legitimacy of the 5-7 bowl filler team or whether or not it muddies the product to have so many games.

It’s also fair to talk about the impact not allowing more games has on the communities that host them. For instance, Charleston was looking into getting a bowl game. They can be large boons to the local economy.

That’s all fine and dandy, but when the schools are paying ass over tea kettle to have the team, cheerleaders, band, and guests out there and finishing in the red, what really is the point?

There isn’t a lot of data yet from the difference in the BCS era by school and bowl to the CFB Playoff one, but teams in the BCS era bled money for participating even in the best bowl games. The BCS games required a purchase of 17,500 tickets, which was a hard sell to even the most passionate fan bases.

Things like that are why an expanded playoff shouldn’t ever, ever happen. Empty BCS games are bad enough. Imagine empty title games because people simply cannot travel like Grateful Dead groupies across the country multiple weeks to watch football games. Adding games will likely mean even more of a money drain for schools.

Personally, I’m fine with 100 bowl games. The upside is that coaches get to spend more time with the team practicing, fans who love the teams get to get excited about one more game, the whole week is built up as a celebration of your season whether you’re 6-6 or 12-1, and they are positives for local communities.

However, bowl games are money drains for schools, which is part of who the NCAA has to think about when they make these decisions. If Ted’s Tavern is going to lose out because a bowl game cannot get there anymore, so be it. Bowl games are great watches for fans and great for players, but until they become fiscally sensible for all schools invited to them, it’s time to put a moratorium on them until discussions can be had about how to make these “rewards” more profitable for those taking part in them.

“Hey, glad you got a promotion! Let’s celebrate by having you take me out for a steak dinner!” isn’t really cutting it anymore.

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