Sunday, January 24, 2021

College Football Playoff Is Expensive for the Fans

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications
Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The difficulty of the travel schedule to each game.

Okay, even though a playoff for college football’s national championship (creatively named the “College Football Playoff”) will not take place until after the next college football season, it might be a good idea to start a special savings plan for a potential Ole Miss run for the title.

Let me explain using the Rebels as our example:

If Ole Miss happens to be in the mix for college football’s final four in January of 2015, it will mean the Rebels will have to play in the SEC Championship Game 5 ½ hours away in Atlanta. A trip to Atlanta is drivable, but some fans will fly and virtually everyone will need a hotel room.

Playoff Game #1 – If the Rebels are chosen as one of the top four teams to participate in the College Football Playoff, Rebel fans will be asked to travel again to a playoff game. In 2015, the first two playoff sites are New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl and Pasadena for the Rose Bowl game. One would assume that Ole Miss would automatically play in the Sugar Bowl for geographic reasons versus traveling 1,900 miles to Pasadena; CA. Not so according to ESPN college football writer Brett McMurphy, a Skype guest of the Ole Miss Sports Marketing and Communications class.

“If Ole Miss made the College Football Playoff, it likely would go to the semifinal at the Sugar Bowl if it was the No. 1 or No. 2 seed” , said McMurphy. “The intent is to reward the top two seeds by allowing them to play closer to their campus for the national semifinals, but it is not guaranteed. Obviously if Ole Miss was the No. 4 seed, it probably would not play the national semifinal in the Sugar – unless it was playing another SEC team, which would be the No. 1 seed”.

BCS National Championship – In 2015 the game will take place at Cowboys Stadium (aka “Jerry’s World”) in Dallas. Not only would this be the third weekend of travel for the Ole Miss faithful, but getting decent rates on airfare with such a quick turnaround will be extremely challenging. And you can only imagine the asking price for tickets to that game.

Oxford is actually one of the more geographically favorable places to survive these three weekends of travel in 2015. But what happens when the two playoff sites become the Orange Bowl in Miami, FL, and the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, AZ in future years?  Now put yourself in the shoes of the fans of schools in the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big East and ACC.  Can you imagine how expensive making a run at the BCS National Championship will be for those supporters?

This is one of the reasons why the Big 12 Conference is not in a major hurry to expand to twelve teams again. To have a conference championship game, you must have twelve teams, and they currently stand at ten. A conference official told me that while the financial aspects of a conference championship game are very appealing and would bring in significant dollars to the Big 12 Conference, they are concerned about the financial impact on the fans. Can a large number of fans from Manhattan, KS afford to travel three weekends in a month to follow their team? And how does that come across on television if they cannot afford to travel to every game?

The final point may be the most significant.  Everyone envisions these playoff games as packed stadiums filled with passionate fans of the two teams involved. But if the average fans, especially students, are not able to make all three trips, what will these stadiums actually look like in terms of attendance and pageantry? And now you have the Texas Athletic Director, DeLoss Dodds, calling for an 8-team playoff?

The bottom line is, following your team through the BCS Playoffs may be fun, but it is about to become a very expensive proposition.  Which brings me to my free marketing idea of the week for local banks….Start your “BCS College Football Playoff Savings Plan” Today!  –– Scott Pederson, professor of journalism, Meek School of Journalism and New Media

Email Scott Pederson at scott_pederson@celebratepositive.com

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