Happy New Year! Had enough football yet? Of course not.
It was a good year for Big Ten football.
The conference is in ten bowls, including Ohio State in the national semifinal PlayStation Fiesta Bowl last night (ugh!). And certainly that game was well attended. As will the “grand daddy of them all”, the Rose Bowl. Sure, Michigan and Iowa will travel well (if you were in Michigan or Iowa, wouldn’t you want to go - no, be fighting to go - to Miami and Tampa, respectively?) But what about the rest?
For starters, we won’t be covering the national semi-final. Needless to say, it will be a sellout. Nor will we cover the last three New Year’s Six games with Iowa, Wisconsin, or Penn State. They’ll be good crowds - certainly a sellout in Pasadena - so not a real exciting conversation.
The first game with a Big Ten team was in Detroit. The Quick Lane Bowl - Rutgers first and, thus far, only Big Ten bowl game - featured (and I use that term loosely) Maryland and Boston College. The day after Christmas. I hope Quick Lane put up a lot of bucks because the game certainly didn’t make a lot on the gate as just 19,117 people showed up at Ford Field. #SuperSad Of all the Big Ten games, this was the poorest attended contest. But on a separate note, after a sluggish Terp start, it ended up a fairly decent game...that no one saw.
The bowls, as is often noted, are there to promote the local economy, provide a platform to promote that economy on TV, and reward successful teams. Oh yeah, and to host a football game. And someone is being entertained at home with those games. In fact, a lot of people. Even the lower tier bowls draw eyeballs to the tube, so ESPN (and the others, but mostly it) almost don’t care if the stadium is empty. Really.
But what about the “other” bowls. No, not the Zombie Toxin Haunted House Bowl ** from Junction City, Kansas. I’m talking bowls that people might actually be interested in watching. And maybe in places that would draw fans.
Like San Diego.
If you lived in Minneapolis (average high temperature in December: 27 degrees), would you travel to San Diego (average December high of 65) for a football game? Yeah, me, too. And over 48,000 people watched the Gophers and Washington State do battle in an epic low-scoring contest. But, it’s San Diego.
Rutgers’ favorite bowl - the Pinstripe - went off with temps in the low 40’s, and sort of sunny. So if you had a decent seat in the sun, the Pitt-Northwestern game might have been fun. But if you thought playing in the Foster Farms Bowl in sunny California - more like moony California with a 5:30 pm kickoff - was better, think again. Temps in the upper 40’s aren’t too bad (really, California?), but barely better than NYC. However, if the alternative is Bloomington with real-feel temps in the upper 30’s or the sub-freezing temps of Salt Lake City, I guess it’s okay. Despite that, the Hoosiers’ game was the second lowest attended game among our brethren’s bowl games
Speaking of the Pinstripe Bowl and the battle of kitties.....
more like terrible cat art bowl am i right ladies pic.twitter.com/tQ9Fym90kw— Spilly (@IAmSpilly) December 28, 2016
This year’s edition of the Battle in the Bronx drew 37,918. Nice crowd on a not so nice day. Rutgers drew 47,122 vs. Notre Dame in 2013 (okay, Notre Dame drew....) but also pulled in 38,328 against Iowa State in 2011. Maybe this New York City bowl game isn’t such a bad idea.
With the game in Tennessee and featuring Tennessee, it was no surprise to see the Music City Bowl draw an impressive crowd. Not due to anything the Huskers did, though. And with another home game for one of the participants, Michigan had a nice crowd to play in front of in Miami. For the record, it was the third smallest crowd to watch the Wolverines all year, ahead of just Indiana’s and Rutgers’ hosting of UM.
In the interest of giving some perspective, we threw together some other “name” teams and their bowls. Plus past and future opponent Temple.
Temple’s game, just 94 miles from Philadelphia, drew a tad under Temple’s home attendance average of 27,225. Legion Field is a dumpy erector set of a stadium, but is still just around six hours from either of the participants’ homes. It’s just two hours from Blacksburg to Charlotte, and undoubtedly most of the fans at the Belk Bowl wore Maroon and Orange. The Liberty Bowl - once played indoors in Atlantic City Convention Hall - is a local tradition. And the Sun Bowl...well, despite a decent crowd, no one really cares.
We have great hopes that soon - very soon - Rutgers finds itself back on this list. And personally, I don’t care where it is. As long as the Knights have a seat at the table.
Bloody Mary, anyone?
** No, it isn’t a real bowl. It’s called “artistic license”.