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Bowling Together

November 29, 2006

Turn on any sports radio station or pick up any newspaper sports section during the next few weeks, and chances are very good that you'll hear or read another installment in the everlasting debate over whether big-time college football should adopt a playoff system to decide its champion.

There are arguments on both sides: Advocates of a playoff note that every other college sport (including football at other levels of the National Collegiate Athletic Association) uses a tournament to decide its winner and that the current system is messy and sometimes unsatisfying. Defenders of the current setup cite the tradition of the bowl games and the fact that the playoff would almost inevitably extend the season and add to pressure on time demands on players.

But if the bowl system survives, it may do so precisely because, unlike a proposed playoff system, it does not produce one winner in college football. Instead, as the bowls have proliferated, 32 teams will go home from their final games as victors, which tends to make coaches and presidents alike happy.

And 64 teams -- better than half of the 118 squads in Division I-A -- will get to take a group of alums, legislators and other supporters on an enjoyable road trip and earn often significant financial payouts. While many if not most of the bowl games might survive if a full-blown playoff system emerged, they would almost certainly be diminished, and a whole lot of communities -- see the list of cities in chart below -- would lose a source of tourism and local if not regional pride. Any playoff proposal that downgraded the bowls in a meaningful way would face significant opposition from bowl supporters.

For now, at least, the bowl games are safe, and they are multiplying. Corporations are still lining up to append their names to the games -- if not take them over entirely, in the case of the Meinene Car Care Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and the MPC Computers Bowl.

The payouts range from a few hundred thousand per team to as much as $17 million apiece for the teams that participate in the five games that make up the Bowl Championship Series, including the National Championship Game. The dates, locations and payouts for each of the 32 bowl games appear below, with one caveat: ESPN Regional Television, which owns several of the games, declined to provide the payouts for the games it sponsors. So much for the network's journalistic transparency. 

Game Location Date Payout Per Team
Alamo Bowl San Antonio December 30 $2.2 million
Allstate Sugar Bowl New Orleans January 3 $14 million-
$17 million
AT&T Cotton Bowl Dallas January 1 $3 million
AutoZone Liberty Bowl Memphis December 29 $1.7 million
Bell Helicopter Armed Services Bowl Fort Worth, Tex. December 23 $750,000
Brut Sun Bowl El Paso, Tex. December 29 $1.9 million
Capital One Bowl Orlando January 1 $4.25 million
Chick-fil-A Bowl Atlanta December 30 $2.4 million-
$3.25 million
Champs Sports Bowl Orlando December 29 $2.25 million
Emerald Bowl San Francisco December 27 $750,000
FedEx Orange Bowl Miami January 2 $14 million-
$17 million
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl Nashville December 29 $1.5 million
GMAC Bowl Mobile, Ala. January 7 $750,000
Insight Bowl Tempe, Ariz. December 29 $1.2 million
International Bowl Toronto January 6 $750,000
MPC Computers Bowl Boise, Idaho December 31 $750,000
Meineke Car Care Bowl Charlotte, N.C. December 30 $750,000
Motor City Bowl Detroit December 26 $750,000
New Mexico Bowl Albuquerque, N.M. December 23 Declined to Provide
New Orleans Bowl New Orleans December 22 $325,000
Outback Bowl Tampa, Fla. January 1 $3 million
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl San Diego December 28 $2.2 million
Papajohns.com Bowl Birmingham December 23 Declined to Provide
PetroSun Independence Bowl Shreveport, La. December 27 $1.1 million
Pioneer Pure Vision Las Vegas Bowl Las Vegas December 21 $1 million
Rose Bowl Pasadena, Calif. January 1 $14 million-
$17 million
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl San Diego December 19 $750,000
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Honolulu December 24 Declined to Provide
Texas Bowl Houston December 28 $500,000 to $750,000
Tostitos BCS Championship Game Glendale, Ariz. January 8 $14 million-
$17 million
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Glendale, Ariz. January 1 $14 million-
$17 million
Toyota Gator Bowl Jacksonville, Fla. January 1 $2.5 million

 

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