Here's an h-o-t sports take from Deadspin's Isaac Rauch on "the BCS:" Criminy – schools lose money on bowl games!
In this case, the aggrieved party is Ohio University, which dropped a shade under $80,000 in December for its beloved Bobcats to travel to Shreveport and kick the tar out of Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl. Rauch writes that Ohio's predicament illustrates the reality that "the total cost of travel and accommodations basically incentivizes not participating in the college football postseason for some schools."
It amazes me that even with the execution date of the BCS now set in stone, people still muster up the energy to write up critiques of it and explain why it sucks so bad. (Then again, I'm the one writing up a critique of a critique, so I guess the joke is on me.) However, Rauch has gone so far here as to bitch about the BCS without actually talking about the BCS. Aside from having the word "bowl" in their names, the Independence Bowl has no ties to the BCS. The postseason game and others like it will continue to be played every year, even after the BCS dies out.
Besides that somewhat major flaw, it doesn't take an economics PhD to see that the argument that high costs are discouraging schools against participating in bowl games is flat-out bunk.
For that to be true, it would mean that schools are actually turning down bowl invitations to avoid incurring the costs. In fact, we're now seeing the opposite, as teams with sub-.500 records are applying for spcial exemptions to play in postseason exhibitions. That's even after the supposed financial pitfalls of participating in a bowl game have been well-publicized, with programs like Connecticut holding a seven-figure bag in exchange for a bid to the Fiesta Bowl.
The fact of the matter is that aside from people with too much time on their hands complaining about the preponderance of bowls on TV that no one is forcing them to watch, fans like them. Boosters enjoy traveling to them. Making a bowl can be the difference in the following year's season ticket orders and donations holding steady or tailing off. Not to mention, miss out on a bowl game and the trade-off could be millions of dollars in buyout money to axe an underachieving coach.
There are plenty of good arguments to be made that university administrators are mismanaging and overspending on sports programs in general, and purchasing thousands of unused tickets and overpriced hotel rooms looks like an inefficient expenditure on its face. The indirect return on that investment tells a different story.