Schools must sell tickets—or suffer
. Duke is not alone in having to shamelessly hawk ducats to its alumni. Nearly every bowl deal contains a ticket clause. This doesn't ensure a full stadium—witness the throng of 38,516 who sat through last year's Carquest Bowl in Miami's 74,913-seat Joe Robbie Stadium. But it does shift some of the responsibility for ticket sales to the participating schools. In effect, a bowl-bound school receives tickets in lieu of good, hard cash as part of its bowl payout; only when the school sells the tickets does it get its loot. Last year North Carolina State was required by the Hall of Fame Bowl to take 15,000 tickets; the school sold just over 4,000 and thus had to eat almost 11,000 tickets at $30 each. Therefore almost $330,000 was subtracted from its projected bowl payout of $1 million.
Then there is West Virginia. After being invited to this year's Carquest Bowl game against South Carolina, the Mountaineers astonishingly agreed to sell 24,000 tickets, up from the 12,500 required by the bowl. The bad news is that the West Virginia athletic department overestimated the attractiveness of the 7-5 Mountaineers, and the school will have to eat about 9,000 tickets.
Players can legally scam the NCAA for money
. We like this one. It actually returns some of the spoils to the athletes. The NCAA has a rule (if rules were food, the NCAA would be Buster Douglas) that allows a school to reimburse a player by the mile for travel from his hometown to the bowl site. This is significant because many teams declare a vacation for their players shortly before Christmas and have them reconvene at the bowl site. Players, ever resourceful in their attempts to score some cash from programs that are using them to mint money, then milk the system. Here's how: Let's say four guys from the University of Alabama live in Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas. The Crimson Tide is playing in the Sugar Bowl. All four guys go in one car from Tuscaloosa to Baton Rouge for Christmas dinner and then drive on to New Orleans. Each player gets reimbursed for mileage from his hometown. Voilà. Barbecued shrimp all week on the guy from Jersey.
Repeat after me: Nobody cares about most of these games
. There are 19 bowl games this year. Only two have any real significance: No. 1 Nebraska versus No. 3 Miami in the Jan. 1 Orange, in which the Cornhuskers can win the national championship or the Hurricanes can put themselves in position to win it; and No. 2 Penn State versus Oregon in the Jan. 2 Rose Bowl, in which, if Nebraska has lost to Miami, the Nittany Lions can clinch the national championship by winning or hand it to the Hurricanes by losing.
Games to miss: the Alamo Bowl (Dec. 31), a much-clamored-for matchup between 7-4 Baylor of the condemned Southwest Conference and 7-4 Washington State of the Pac-10. Baylor is riding the momentum of a season-ending 63-35 loss to Texas. At home. With the SWC title on the line. And the Carquest Bowl (Jan. 2), featuring West Virginia and South Carolina (6-5), who between them have lost to Rutgers, Maryland, East Carolina and Mississippi State.
Meanwhile, Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill says that he isn't angry that his Bulldogs' New Year's-night Peach Bowl game against North Carolina State is up against the Orange Bowl on television. "That's part of the bowls," Sherrill says. "If our game is close, they'll flip back and forth." Yeah, right.
Well, some people care
. College administrators and fat-cat alumni like bowls because schools use bowls as a "reward" for all the "hard work" that's done during the rest of the year, and bring along, gratis, folks with boardroom influence...and their families. This is one of the reasons why bowl expenses get so high. This mix can also provide comic relief: At last year's Liberty Bowl between Louisville and Michigan State, Spartan athletic director Merrily Dean Baker innocently showed up dressed in red and black (the Cardinals' colors) and was chewed out by trustee Joel Ferguson.
Recruiting coordinators like bowls. Their teams get to play on national TV and get to pose for cool pictures on the beach or on a boat or train ride, which are put in the next year's media guide as enticements for 17-year-olds to attend the recruiting coordinator's college.
Chambers of commerce like bowls because they bring tourists to their cities. Even if these tourists tend to sing, bark, sooey, tomahawk-chop and yell "Roll, Tide" at all hours of the day and night, they also spend lots of money—$153 a day per fan in 1993, according to a survey done by the Sugar Bowl.
Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Oregon State like bowls because, through revenue sharing, they get money from bowls without the hassle of actually traveling to and playing in them. Last season SEC member Vanderbilt, whose record was 4-7, got more than $350,000 from various bowls without leaving Nashville. When the Big East starts revenue sharing, Temple is just going to love Miami.