College Bowl Games: Why Airline Travel Will "Slaughter" Them
CNBC Sports Business Reporter
This morning, I gritted my teeth while reading a column in the Austin American-Statesman by a writer named Kirk Bohls.
Bohls was writing about the college bowls saying that the economy had yet to hit them. That the folks at the AT&T Cotton Bowl said sales were up 12 percent from last year and officials at the Valero Alamo Bowl has sold more than 500 tickets as compared to last year.
Bohls correctly pointed out that it's a tough time and that this year's second-tier games could be affected, but mentioned nothing about air travel. Folks, that's what is going to absolutely slaughter this year's bowls.
Let's show you some math to prove my point instead of talking about generalities.
Over the last two weeks, I've been doing what every big fan has been doing. After my beloved Wildcats finished the season with a 9-3 record, I made hotel and car reservations in Orlando (Champs), Tampa (Outback) and San Antonio (Alamo). With the economy being the way it is, the prices for a three-night stay were quite affordable.
But even though I'm as die-hard as die-hard gets, I fear every day that I won't be at Northwestern's bowl game. Why? Because the Big Ten and the bowls are going to wait until next week to announce the bowl affiliations, even though things seem entirely settled in the conference (Two BCS bids go to Penn State and Ohio State after Oregon State's loss on Saturday night.) The opponents might not be ready since they have championship games, but in this economy, what's the harm in starting to sell the thing?
Trust me, many bowls, including the Alamo Bowl, aren't in a position to wait. If airline travel is pushing into a range that I'm not willing to pay, I'm sure many others are in the same boat.
As of now, the cheapest non-stop flights to all these places out of New York hovers around $400. That's now. By next Monday, I'm going to be looking at at least $500 apiece -- and that's times two since I'm bringing my wife. And there's not much of an alternative. Flying into Houston or Austin and driving is just as expensive, if not more expensive. Out of Chicago, where you'd have to assume most Northwestern fans are coming from, it's also $400.
- Chris Vennum (SI Cover In Nikes) Where Are You?
When you look at the attendance for these second-tier bowls, you are going to see one thing that's going to be interesting. While you'll still be able to correlate size of fan base to butts in the seats, you'll notice that the bowls that will do better will be the bowls in which at least one of the teams is within a 12-hour drive. That's probably the max someone is willing to drive, even with cheap gas prices.
If my Cats are going to San Antonio, I'm fearing with each day this goes unannounced that I won't be there with them. I bleed purple, but I see no way this is going to work out. And yes, a 28-hour one-way drive is out of the question since it's $500 in gas on roundtrip alone.
The only thing that can be done for me is for the Big Ten and the bowls to realize that, for the sake of these unprecedented times, they should announce all the Big Ten slots (minus where Ohio State goes) now. Otherwise, I'll be watching on my flat screen.
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