The number of postseason college football bowls has steadily ballooned from a sensible number of games featuring only the best teams in the nation to the stultifying monstrosity we have today, where 82 teams (including several with losing records) play each other in increasingly irrelevant games spread out over three weeks. A future where fans are treated to filth like the Cheyenne DiscountCialis.Biz Bowl played between two 2-10 teams in February is not unimaginable.
Here’s a dispatch from the fringes of bowl hell: The Indiana Hoosiers, who played in a bowl game in Santa Clara, Calif. against the Utah Utes last December, sold less than 10 percent of their allotted tickets and technically lost money going to the game before the Big Ten conference intervened. According to a report from the Bloomington Herald-Times, the Hoosiers received a payout of $2,212,500 for playing in the game, but racked up $2,500,000 in expenses. IU was given 7,000 tickets to sell but only sold 672 of them. This is apparently nothing new.
This is the second year in a row the conference has helped IU cover the cost of unsold bowl game tickets. More than 4,000 of the 7,500 tickets allotted to IU for the 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl went unsold. IU only absorbed 950 of those unsold tickets, at a cost of about $84,000. The conference paid about $345,000 to cover the cost of 3,369 unsold tickets.
The Big Ten stepped in to cover the deficit, just as they did the previous year, but had they not covered the cost of $407,557 worth of unsold tickets, Indiana would have ended up in the red because they qualified for a bowl game no one wanted to see in a place no one wanted to travel to. In fact, only 27,608 fans total attended the game, a figure which is less than half of the stadium’s capacity. As the Herald-Times notes, the bulk of bowl payouts for Big Ten schools gets redirected back to the conference. But even if Indiana is getting bailed out to go play in a far-flung bowl game, the fact that they couldn’t even sell 10 percent of their tickets to a game that nobody watched makes you wonder how long this bloat is sustainable.