Bowl Game Bonanza

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


It’s the Holiday Season which means it’s college football bowl season. Or as ESPN likes to brand it ‘Bowl Week’….that of course lasts two weeks. There are some 41 bowl games including the National Championship game and some feature teams with sub 500 records. How did we get here and which ones are worth watching?

CBS Sports Dennis Dodd wrote an article sometime ago about why we have so many. The reasons are varied but essentially come down to these factors: It’s live programming for ESPN who broadcasts all but one of the bowl games and money. Teams and conferences get payouts from each bowl game who in turn get money from ESPN, sponsorships, plus tickets and concession sales.

Lord knows what BattleFrog paid to be the title sponsor of the Fiesta Bowl (a game that kicks off at 11am local time New Years Day) but it had to be a pretty penny. It also shows that bowl games are truly in it for the money. They would sell two title sponsorships to their games if they could.

Besides BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl, other oddities include:

  • Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl (It’s not just a bowl game, it’s a celebration!)
  • Cure Bowl (We don’t think The Cure is playing the halftime show.)
  • Miami Beach Bowl (This is at Marlins Park which is not near the beach.)
  • Marmot Boca Raton Bowl (Marmot specializes in winter clothes.)
  • Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (What?)
  • Russell Athletic Bowl (Features two teams sponsored by Nike.)
  • Motel 6 Cactus Bowl (…..Yeah.)

It’s big business and if the model didn’t work then there wouldn’t be so many bowl games.

From a schools perspective there are other reasons to go to a bowl game. Specifically the extra practice time. If you have a young team, installing a new offense, etc you can always use the extra practice time that a bowl game allows you.

Yes bowl games are supposed to be a reward for the players but let’s not kid ourselves, is going to play in a bowl game in Detroit or outside in the Bronx in December a reward? Now playing a game in the Bahamas or Honolulu, ok that seems like a good gig. But Shreveport, LA or Montgomery, AL, probably not so much.

Either way, the games are upon us and here is a list of ones that should be worth watching:

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl – 12/19 | 12:30pm | ABC: BYU vs Utah is a rivalry that went away when BYU went independent. While Utah isn’t thrilled about this matchup (or being back in a bowl they were in last year) this renewed rivalry should be worth watching.Holy War Byu vs Utah

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl – 12/19 | 2:30pm | ESPN: Ohio vs Appalachian State may not seem sexy but Ohio has eight wins and App State has 10. Just sayin.

Miami Beach Bowl – 12/21 | 11:30am | ESPN: Western Kentucky vs South Florida is a heck of a match up. Western Kentucky can score points at will while USF has found it’s swagger once again under head coach Willie Taggart.

Tyler Matakevich
Defensive Player of the Year Tyler Matakevich

Marmot Boca Raton Bowl – 12/22 | 4pm | ESPN: Toledo vs Temple is a game, despite Toledo’s coach bolting for a new gig at Iowa State, that is pretty underrated. Toledo had a chance to win the MAC and Temple burst onto the college football scene this year with the help of Chuck Bednarik Award winner Tyler Matakevich (that means he is Defensive Player of the Year).

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – 12/23 | 1:30pm | ESPN: It’s funny to say that Boise State vs Northern Illinois is game between two teams who had a down year. Both have been to major bowl games the last few years and the talent is there to do it again.

Hyundai Sun Bowl – 12/26 | 11am | CBS:  Washington State came out of nowhere this year to be a force in the Pac-12. Miami….well they have talent and a new head coach coming in so most of the returning players are essentially giving a live tryout to their new head coach Mark Richt.

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman – 12/28 | 11:30am | ESPN: Last chance to see Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds go do his thing. Pittsburgh is a tough, hard-nosed team so this could be an old grind’em up football game. Oh, Navy is playing at home.

Russell Athletic Bowl – 12/29 | 2:30pm | ESPN: Two high powered offenses that should put points on the board. Granted North Carolina is a lot healthier than Baylor at the quarterback position but this should be fun none the less.

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl – 12/29 | 6pm | ESPN: A contrast in styles. LSU has arguably the best running back in the country in Leonard Fournette and Texas Tech likes to spread you out and expose the open space.

Chick -fil -A Peach Bowl – 12/31 | 9am | ESPN: One of the New Years Six bowl games featuring Houston against Florida State. Houston has had an awesome season under first year head coach Tom Herman but FSU has Dalvin Cook who is arguably the best running back in the country.

Capital One Orange Bowl – 12/31 | 1pm | ESPN: The first of two College Football Playoff Semifinal games. This is a rematch of last years Russell Athletic Bowl and while Clemson got the better of Oklahoma in that game, OU is one of the hottest teams in the country.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl – 12/31 | 5pm | ESPN: Michigan State vs Alabama is about as old school as it gets. This one is all about running the ball and defense.

Outback Bowl – 1/1 | 9am | ESPN2: Northwestern and Tennessee have had outstanding years. This game is always close and a lot of fun to watch.

BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl – 1/1 | 10am | ESPN: Does it get much better than Notre Dame vs Ohio State?

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual – 1/1 | 2pm | ESPN: Iowa vs Stanford is like Michigan State vs Alabama, run oriented offenses defenses that can win a game for you. You get to also check out the most exciting player in the country in Stanford’s Christian McCaffery.

Valero Alamo Bowl – 1/2 | 3:45pm | ESPN: Oregon vs TCU and that means wide open offenses and two quarterbacks looking to end their collegiate careers with a bang. Oregon’s Vernon Adams and TCU’s Trevone Boykin.

Improving The Digital Experience Of March Madness And Why It Will Never Happen

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

It seems almost arcane to think that the NCAA tournament wasn’t streamed live and available everywhere. That you could only watch whatever regional games was on CBS is almost unthinkable in this day and age. It wasn’t all that long ago that this was the reality of the situation. Now, you can see every game on just about any device from your desktop to your tablet to your phone and of course your television. But it’s not good enough because in the end, the user is still getting screwed.

March Madness

In 2003 when the NCAA and CBS began streaming March Madness it had two main  online sponsors, Dell and Marriott. We shouldn’t be surprised that the live streams over delivered on viewers. In the early years there was a limit on the bandwidth available so if you wanted to watch games online and not pay then you had to stand in a digital que. If you wanted to pay then you got access immediately. Now, massive improvement. No waiting except for the excessive amount of ads on the first two days. On Thursday, the first full day, I personally sat through 2 minutes of ads (a lifetime online) before being allowed to watch a game. Maybe that was one time only log in or bad timing but none the less.

Online History of the NCAA Tournament.

10 years in the experience has improved as have the ad dollars. However, the user experience is still not where it should be. Why? Because this is a business run by TV executives and the NCAA makes 90% of their revenue from March Madness The last contract that the NCAA signed with the TV networks (CBS and Turner Sports) is for 14 years and $10.8 billion. In 2011 the networks made $738 million from TV ad revenue and $60 million in online ad revenue in 2012. This is a lot of money and the cash cow continues to be TV advertising therefore the sacred cash cow will be protected at all costs.

If the NCAA and the TV networks were really smart they would split the TV and online experience into two separate groups then manage and sell them separately.  By doing this they would accept that the TV and online experiences are different. This would be the entertainment equivalent of walking on water. However if this was done, and online people could run the live streams you would see March Madness not only on Apple and Google’s Android platform but also on XBOX (Microsoft’s gaming platform) Playstation Network (Sony) and Google’s video platform,  YouTube. They could also sell it to other online providers like Yahoo and AOL. Best part, it would an experience that fits the medium.

The TV people would scream that this is taking away from their TV ad revenue. Not true. Why do people watch on computer, tablet and phone screens? CAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO A TV! If they did, they would be in front of their 50 inch TV screen and not have to think about mobile provider data rates or buffering.

It’s also not the same experience and it’s time people accepted that. If you are watching the games on your 50 inch TV through your cable or satellite provider your signal will not diminish if your 5 neighbors are watching it too. If your watching online and the same 5 neighbors begin watching the Twilight movies via Netflix your viewing quality may degrade. You can flip between games much faster on TV than you can online too. So let’s stop pretending that this is the same.

The advertisers make out too. You’ll have more target ads online then you will on TV and that is only going to improve over time. So if your not in the market for a car but you are for a pizza then guess what? Advertisers will have a better chance of getting their product or service in front of someone who is more inclined to purchase.

Finally, do not GEO BLOCK the online experience. If a someone is traveling to Italy during March Madness then make sure they can see the games. If they are that committed to watching March Madness at 2am on a Saturday then God Bless that fan.

Will this ever happen? Only if one or both of the following things happen:

1) A major sport such as the NFL negotiates this into their next set of TV contracts.

2) Viewership or ad revenue declines for TV.

In the end the user is not the concern, even if the TV networks and the NCAA say they are. It’s about money but by not focusing on the user and accepting the idea of disruption then the NCAA in particular is leaving lots of money on the table.

Frontine- Money & March Madness

Other Reading:

Ad Trends for March Madness

CBS Expects Record Users and Revenue

How to Watch at Work