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From the Sidelines - Bowl Games

They're talking to YOU, Mr. and Ms. Wildcat Football fan.
All the haters, the naysayers in and around the college football bowl scene, the media screamers, bloggers and talk show hosts (and callers) who say, "Nobody cares about the bowl games" - they're talking to you.
They're saying you don't count, unless your team is A.) Involved in the BCS championship game, or B.) Whining that it should be. Otherwise, they reason, post-season games are meaningless - unless it's a matchup they really, really, REALLY want to see, or it's a high-profile game that makes their case for a national playoff.
Bowl games on any other level are a waste of time, in their opinions (which are anything but humble). Who won the Emerald Bowl this year? Or the Sun Bowl? Or the Liberty Bowl? Who cares?
You do. You care. And there are a lot more people out there, just like you.
Your browser may not support display of this image. So says the National Football Foundation, which has the numbers to back it up.
College football fans showed up, either in person or in front of their TV sets, in record numbers this winter to take in the bowl games. Are there too many? Probably. Does a 6-6 team belong in a bowl game? Not by standards we knew when there were just a handful of games.
But the college football landscape has changed in so many ways, thanks largely to parity brought about by changes in academic standards and scholarship numbers. There are more good teams out there, so there are more bowl games. And, according to the numbers, more fans.
From the most recent NFF news release:

"The 2008-09 bowl season set high water marks for bowl viewership and fan attendance, attracting an all- time high 1,770,654 fans or an average of 52,078 per game and filling stadiums to 85 percent of their combined capacity. Two new bowls, the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C., and the magicJack St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl, helped produce the largest lineup of bowl games in history with 34 contests and 68 teams participating.

With the 1.77 million in attendance and more than 135 million households tuning in to watch the games on television, bowl payouts ran an estimated $240 million in 2008-09 and have totaled $1.84 billion over the last 10 seasons. Over the next 10 years, bowls are projected to pay $2.5 billion to the teams and conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision who participate."

Sure, if you keep adding bowl games, you'll have more fans attending and more viewers. But as someone who gets paid to cover these games and observe what happens in and around them, I can report with unerring clarity:
They're fun.
The Kentucky players I've watched at three bowl venues fully appreciated their opportunity, and the swag that came with it. More than one has described the satisfaction that comes with making a visit to the home town while wearing a bowl ring. And when they weren't practicing football, they were taking advantage of the activities that go along with spending a week at a bowl game site.Your browser may not support display of this image.
The thousands of Wildcat fans who packed first Nashville and then Memphis had a blast as well. I must admit, I thought UK would be outnumbered by East Carolina when game time rolled around, but I was wrong. The Big Blue Nation came through again.
And much as we might like to think Kentucky fans set the standard when it comes to following their football team in post-season play, the numbers say otherwise. Practically every bowl game this year did healthy numbers - either at the gate, on TV or both.
Following is the rest of the news release from the NFF. Keep this information in mind next fall, but mark your calendar now and expect this:
After the first four games of the season, there will be eight or nine powerhouse teams that are undefeated. A handful of "experts," who justify their existence by bleating into computers or microphones, will project all of them through undefeated seasons, even though half of them play each other. How can we decide a national champion, they'll pant breathlessly, with all these undefeated teams?
Your browser may not support display of this image. They'll begin the incessant pounding of the playoff drum, simultaneously dismissing the bowl games as a complete and utter waste of (their) time, even though the numbers say different.

They're talking to you. And, according to the numbers, you're not listening. Good for you.

Regular Season Ratings Highlights

ESPN on ABC posted significant audience increases for its college football game coverage over last year, led by a significant 20 percent ratings growth for its Saturday Night Football Presented by Southwest Airlines series. The 13 Saturday night telecasts on ABC averaged a 4.9 rating and 5,651,000 households for increases of 20 percent and 22 percent respectively over last year. ABC was the number one network for the night nine times among households and total viewers. Overall, coverage on ABC averaged a 4.0 rating and 4,598,000 households, marking increases of 3 percent and 5 percent respectively over last year.

ESPN averaged 1,931,000 households and 2.0 rating for all its games during the 2008 season, producing the third most-viewed season in the past decade and directly following the second most-viewed season (2007) and the third most-viewed season (2006) in the cable network's history. ESPN also earned the top spot in Prime Time among cable networks in November, edging out more than 50 sports and news outlets with a 2.4 rating, up four percent from its November 2007 mark. ESPN2 enjoyed an average of 1,028,000 households and a 1.1 Nielsen rating for 2008 college football, producing the most-viewed season ever for the network.Your browser may not support display of this image.

NBC's coverage of Notre Dame games nabbed an average 2.2 rating in 2008 for an 18 percent increase from last year while Versus had a .40 rating for 19 games or a 33 percent increase from 2007. The highly popular GameDay Built By The Home Depot on ESPN produced an average 1.5 rating while ESPN's presentation of the Heisman Trophy notched an impressive 3.1 rating, a slight increase over last year.

With No. 2 Florida beating No. 1 Alabama in the 2008 SEC Championship game, CBS notched a 9.3 rating, the highest rated non-bowl game for the year. It was the highest rated regular season game on CBS since a 9.7 rating for the Oct. 20, 1990 game between Miami and Notre Dame, and the highest rated game on any network for a non-bowl game since a 13.0 rating on Nov. 18, 2006 when No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 2 Michigan on ABC. The 9.3 rating represented a 58 percent increase over last year's SEC Championship game and 107 percent increase over 2006.

Your browser may not support display of this image.Excluding championship games, ESPN on ABC notched the highest-rated regular season game this year with the Texas Tech 39-33 victory over then-No. 1 ranked Texas during Week 10. The primetime game tallied a 7.5 rating with 8,589,711 households watching, making it the network's fifth-most viewed regular-season college football game ever (and the seventh-highest rated ever). USC's victory over Ohio State in the third week of the season produced the second highest rated game of the season, 6.9, with 7,858,991 households tuning in to ABC, and the Texas Tech - Oklahoma game during Week 13 came in third with a 6.6 rating and 7,550,967 households enjoying the game also on ABC.

The Big Ten Network saw its coverage area ratings increase for afternoon college football games by 113 percent from a 0.8 in 2007 to a 1.7 rating in 2008. The network also achieved household impression records with audiences more than doubling in some markets from the previous year. For example, ratings in the Columbus, Ohio market rose from an average 10.3 HH in 2007 to 24.4HH this year, and ratings in Detroit increased from an average 2.4HH to a 6.2HH.

The Mtn., MountainWest Sports Network, saw a 78% increase in its average household viewership over its viewing audience from 2007. Over 13 weeks the network carried 30 games in 2008 an aggregate of 870,000 cable and satellite households tuning in versus 489,000 homes in 2007.

In 2008, VERSUS expanded its college football coverage to 24 games across the Pac-10, Big 12, Mountain West and Ivy League Conferences; up from just nine games in 2006. The network also added VERSUS College Football Central, which included the Craftsman Halftime Report and pre/post game shows on select telecasts. VERSUS concluded its third year of college football coverage with increases in ratings (up 33%), viewership (up 40%) and household impressions (up 27%) as compared to the 2007 season, while seeing growth in viewership for all the key male demographics.

Bowl Ratings Highlights

The 2008-09 season produced another banner year for bowl-game viewing. The five BCS Bowl games averaged 11,827,362 households per game or an estimated 17,594,809 viewers each, up 11 percent and 14 percent respectively from last year. ESPN delivered its second most-viewed bowl season ever this year, averaging 2,919,703 households for its 21 game lineup and only slightly trailing its best season in 1998-99 with a nine game slate of games. ESPN2 produced its highest-rated and most-viewed bowl season ever this year, carrying two games and averaging 1,663,000 homes, up 11 percent from 1,502,000 last season.

Your browser may not support display of this image.ESPN recorded five of the top 15 most-viewed bowl games on ESPN this year, including its second most- viewed bowl game ever, the Champs Sports Bowl with 5,098,000 homes and a 5.2 rating for Florida State's 42-13 victory over Wisconsin. (ESPN's most-watched bowl game ever was the Alamo Bowl on December, 30, 2006, between Iowa and Texas with an average of 5,521,000 homes and a 6.0 rating.)

FOX's coverage of the Cotton, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange and National Championship Bowl games averaged 10 million households or an estimated 14.6 million viewers, an 11 percent increase from last year and producing the most watched BCS lineup on Fox ever.

ESPN on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 Bowl Rating Highlights:

The Rose Bowl and Capital One Bowl games averaged 10,458,348 households on ABC.

With USC besting Penn State 38-24 in The Rose Bowl, ESPN on ABC attracted and 11.7 rating, up six percent from last year's game between USC and Illinois.

The 2009 Capital One Bowl delivered 6.4 rating for ESPN on ABC with a 24-12 victory by Georgia over Michigan State.

The Emerald Bowl on ESPN "won the night" on Dec. 27 among all TV networks (broadcast or cable) by averaging 4,535,000 homes with a 4.6 ratings as California defeated Miami 24-17.

ESPN also claimed the top spot on two nights among all media outlets in primetime for male viewers 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 with the Valero Alamo Bowl (a 4.6 rating for Missouri's 30-23 overtime victory over Northwestern) on Dec. 29 and the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (a 4.6 rating for Oregon's 42-31 win over Oklahoma State) on Dec. 30.

Switching from ESPN2 to ESPN this year, The Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, featuring Maryland and Nevada, garnered a 200 percent increase in ratings (tops among all bowls) from 2007.

The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl between Hawai'i and Notre Dame increased 147 percent from the '07 Christmas Eve telecast.

With TCU edging Boise State by a score of 17-16 on ESPN, the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl produced an 85 percent increase in its ratings from last year.

The GMAC Bowl tallied a 100 percent increase in its ratings as Tulsa defeated Ball State 45-13 on ESPN.

ESPN2 telecast of the 2008 International Bowl became the outlet's second most-viewed bowl game ever with 2,066,548 households tuning into watch Connecticut beat Buffalo 38-20.

The 2,066,548 households watching The International Bowl on ESPN2 also made it the highest- rated and most-viewed International Bowl in game's three-year history.

FOX Bowl Rating Highlights:

Drawing an average of 26.8 million viewers and more than 50 million fans watching part of the game, the 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship was the second highest-rated and most-watched night in all of television this season-to-date. The game also produced a 16 percent ratings increase over last year's championship game.

Fox's BCS Selection Show garnered a 6.9 rating, attracting 5.3 million viewers and eclipsing the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Selection Show by 56 percent.

Among all prime-time shows, the BCS Championship ranked as a top five show among the key 18-49 demographic and a top ten show for all households and average audience.

All four 2008 BCS games on FOX won their nightly ratings among the powerful 18-49 demographic, following the same statistic last year that marked the first time ever that the BCS had delivered a network four nightly "highs" in the key prime time demographic.

FOX's Cotton, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange and National Championship Bowl games averaged 10 million households or an estimated 14.6 million viewers, an 11 percent increase from last year and producing the most watched BCS lineup on Fox ever.

The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl saw a 35 percent increase from last year's game as Texas scored in the last seconds of the game to beat Ohio State 24-21.

CBS Bowl Rating Highlights:

The Gator and Sun Bowl games averaged 3.64 million households, or a 32 percent increase from last year.

The 2008 Sun Bowl garnered a 2.2 rating as Oregon State beat Pittsburgh 3-0.

The 2009 Gator Bowl produced a 4.1 rating, or a 58% increase from last year's game, as Nebraska won against Clemson 26-21.

New Media Bowl Highlights:

ESPN360.com offered a live simulcast of every ESPN and ESPN2 game telecast as well as both ABC bowls.

Twenty-five games on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 were all offered in high definition on ABC HD, ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD.

ESPN Mobile TV simulcast 23 of the games on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2

ESPN.com and the ESPN Mobile Web site recorded their most-trafficked season ever for college football content, and fans viewed more college football- related videos on ESPN.com than ever before.

Bowl Attendance and Ticket Sales

Final attendance for all bowls in '08-09 was 1,770,654 for a game average of 52,078. The gross attendance exceeded the 2007-08 season by 37,000-plus fans.

The FedEx BCS Championship Game in Miami produced the largest crowd (78,468) in Dolphins Stadium history for a football game. The AT&T Cotton Bowl smashed its previous attendance record by almost 12,000 fans as the expanded Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas had 88,175 on hand for Ole Miss and Texas Tech on Jan. 2, 2009. The full-house at the Rose Bowl presented by Citi marked the 64th consecutive sellout for the New Year's Day classic. The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl tallied its 24th sellout in the last 25 games, and the Chick-fil-A Bowl sold out for the 12th straight year with Georgia Tech hosting LSU.

The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, eclipsed its record turnout for the second year in a row at 41,127 fans for Air Force and Houston game. The PetroSun Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., kept its recent streak of 40,000-plus crowds alive with 41,567 on hand for Louisiana Tech and Northern Illinois. The Gaylord Music City Bowl attracted 55,000-plus as homestanding Vanderbilt battled against ACC foe Boston College.

The Champs Sports Bowl drew 52,692 fans - the second-highest attendance in the history of the bowl and the highest count since the event moved to Orlando. The Insight Bowl drew 49,103 patrons, the second-largest crowd in that bowl's history and the top attendance since the encounter moved to Phoenix area.

Bowl Community Impact

An estimated $1.4 billion poured into the community coffers from travel and tourism during the 34 clashes, and coaches and student-athletes took time out from their practice schedules to participate in a wide range of unique community service events that included children and veteran hospital visits, youth football clinics, Boys & Girls Clubs activities, Make-A-Wish events, food distribution center visits and clothing drives.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl, which has formed a strong partner with the NFF Play It Smart program, brought its three-year scholarship distribution to over $2.6 million for Atlanta area students, and the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl saluted American military legend Gen. David Petraeus.

2008-09 Notable Bowl Facts and Milestones

Joe Paterno of Penn State remained No. 1 in all- time NCAA bowl wins with 23 while his fellow 2006 NFF co-Gold Medal recipient Bobby Bowden of Florida State continues in the No. 2 spot with 21 triumphs.

The Southeastern Conference won six of its nine bowl tries for the most overall victories while producing 2008 BCS champion Florida.

Florida won its second BCS crown in three years and its third national football championship overall with its name now etched on the NFF's MacArthur Bowl for a third time.

The Pacific-10 Conference was a perfect 5-0 (1.000) in five bowl treks.

Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference both posted 4-2 postseasons and tied with the SEC behind the Pac-10 with .667 winning percentages.

The Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl celebrated their 75th anniversaries this season.

The Brut Sun Bowl also celebrated its 75th Anniversary and 41st consecutive year on CBS.

The Orange Bowl Committee contributed $2.5 million to the City of Miami for a new youth football stadium at Moore Park, the site of the first Palm Festival game in 1933, which was precursor of the Orange Bowl.

The Orange Bowl Youth Football Alliance (OBYFA) celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, with more than 16,000 kids participating as football players or cheerleaders across eight South Florida counties.

FedEx maintained its Football Bowl Subdivision record as corporate sponsor of the Orange Bowl for the 20th year in succession.

Alabama (56 bowl appearances), Texas (48), Tennessee (47), Southern California (47), and Nebraska (45) remain the Top Five all-time for bowl appearances. Georgia is close behind with 44 postseason visits.

BCS championship contest game official (field judge) Dr. Jerry McGee worked his 40th and final college football game in Miami. His son, ESPN.com senior writer Ryan McGee, chronicled "A Day in the Life of a BCS Game Official" for the website.

The BCS championship was shown live on 3- dimensional screens at 81 movie theaters nationally for the first time in history in synch with the FOX national telecast.

A total of 41 different schools have participated in the 47 BCS games that have taken place since the system launched in 1998.

Cincinnati (2008 Big East champion) became the most recent school to play for the first time in a BCS game. Hawai'i and Kansas joined the BCS "fraternity" in post-2007 play.

Oklahoma has played in more BCS title games than any other team, followed by Florida State and Ohio State (three apiece).

Florida and LSU are the only two-time winners of a BCS Championship.

Florida leads all Southeastern Conference schools with 18 consecutive bowl game appearances.

National leaders in current consecutive bowl games are Florida State - 27, Florida - 18, Virginia Tech - 16, Georgia - 12, Georgia Tech - 12, Texas - 11, Boston College - 10, and Oklahoma - 10. Nebraska still holds the all-time record with 35 straight trips, which occurred from 1969-2003.

Southern California (6-1), LSU (4-0) and Ohio State (4-3) have the most BCS wins since 1998. Ohio State, USC and Oklahoma (2-5) lead all schools with seven overall appearances in BCS bowls. The Southeastern Conference leads in total BCS victories with a 12-5 mark while the Mountain West tops all leagues in winning percentage at 2-0.

Conference records in the 47 BCS bowls from the 1998-2008 seasons are SEC 12-5 (.706), Pac-10 9-4 (.692), Big East 6-5 (.545), WAC 1-1 (.500), Big 12 7-9 (.438), Big Ten 8-11 (.421), ACC 2-9 (.182), and Independents 0-3 (.000).

Conference breakdown of BCS title game appearances from 1998-2008 has been Big 12 (6); SEC (5), ACC (3), Big East (3), Pac-10 (3), Big Ten (2).

The 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl drew its third sellout in seven years and has crowd averaged over 62,000 fans each year.

2008-09 Chronological Bowl Results: (Attendance) & [Household Impressions] & (Rating)

EagleBank Bowl on ESPN: Wake Forest 29, Navy 19. (28,777) & [2,197,379] & (2.2)

New Mexico Bowl on ESPN: Colorado State 40, Fresno State 35. (24,735) & [2,550,160] & (2.6)

magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl on ESPN2: USF 41, Memphis 14. (25,205) & [1,262,025] & (1.3)

Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl on ESPN: Arizona 31, Brigham Young 21. (40,047) & [2,482,391] & (2.5)

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on ESPN: Southern Miss 30, Troy 27. (30,197) & [774,958] & (0.8)

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia, ESPN: TCU 17, Boise State 16. (34,628) & [3,661,315] & (3.7)

Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl on ESPN: Notre Dame 49, Hawai'i 21 (43,487) & [2,974,026] & (3.0)

Motor City Bowl on ESPN: Florida Atlantic 24, Central Michigan 21. (41,399) & [2,443,368] & (2.5)

Meineke Car Care Bowl on ESPN: West Virginia 31, North Carolina 30. (73,712) & [4,419,227] & (4.5)

Champs Sports Bowl on ESPN: Florida State 42, Wisconsin 13. (52,692) & [5,097,569] & (5.2)

Emerald Bowl on ESPN: California 24, Miami (Fla.) 17. (42,268) & [4,534,535] & (4.6)

PetroSun Independence Bowl, ESPN: Louisiana Tech 17, Northern Illinois 10. (41,567) & [948,613] - (1.0)

Papajohns.com Bowl on ESPN: Rutgers 29, NC State 23. (38,582) & [1,929,056] & (2.0)

Valero Alamo Bowl on ESPN: Missouri 30, Northwestern 23. (55,986) & [4,479,466] & (4.6)

Roady's Humanitarian Bowl on ESPN: Maryland 42, Nevada 35. (26,781) & [2,393,050] & (2.4)

Texas Bowl on the NFL Network: Rice 38, Western Michigan 14. (58,880) & [143,507] & (0.3)

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on ESPN: Oregon 42, Oklahoma State 31. (59,106) & [4,511,140] & (4.6)

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on ESPN: Houston 34, Air Force 28. (41,127) & [1,639,773] & (1.7)

Brut Sun Bowl on CBS: Oregon State 3. Pittsburgh 0. (49,037) & [2,561,794] & (2.2)

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, ESPN: Vanderbilt 16, Boston College 14. (54,250) & [2,727,893] - (2.8)

The Insight Bowl on the NFL Network: Kansas 42, Minnesota 21. (49,103) & [492,485] & (1.2)

Chick-Fil-A Bowl on ESPN: LSU 38, Georgia Tech 3. (71,423) & [3,853,743] & (3.9)

Outback Bowl on ESPN: Iowa 31, South Carolina 10. (55,117) & [3,033,186] & (3.1)

Capital One Bowl on ABC: Georgia 24, Michigan State 12. (59,681) & [7,361,037] & (6.4)

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl on CBS: Nebraska 26, Clemson 21. (67,282) & [4,680,913] & (4.1)

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi on ABC: USC 38, Penn State 24. (93,293) & [13,428,950] & (11.7)

FedEx Orange Bowl on Fox: Virginia Tech 20, Cincinnati 7. (73,602) & [6,197,484] & (5.4)

AT&T Cotton Bowl on Fox: Ole Miss 47, Texas Tech 34. (88,175) & [4,980,141] & (4.4)

AutoZone Liberty Bowl on ESPN: Kentucky 25, East Carolina 19. (56,125) & [2,630,433] & (2.7)

Allstate Sugar Bowl on Fox: Utah 31, Alabama 15. (71,872) & [8,941,053] & (7.8)

International Bowl on ESPN2: Connecticut 38, Buffalo 20. (40,184) & [2,066,548] & (2.1)

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Fox: Texas 24, Ohio State 21. (72,047) & [11,877,817] & (10.4)

GMAC Bowl on ESPN: Tulsa 45, Ball State 13. (32,816) & [2,148,838] & (2.2)

FedEx BCS National Championship on Fox: Florida 24, Oklahoma 14. (78,468) & [18,114,174] & (15.8)


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