BCS Doubts A College Football Stadium Can Host A College Football Game Comment Count

Brian April 25th, 2012 at 11:40 AM


It appears that conference commissioners are against home games for a four-team college football playoff. Since it's tough to think of a valid reason to be against them, the commissioners have to make up bad reasons. Bad reasons like "they play basketball at neutral sites" that ignore things like the NFL and every other playoff in the country that is not NCAA hockey.

That only is the third-worst argument.


The second-worst is "what if Cincinnati gets a bid?" Here is a complete list of teams that would have hosted first-round games if a four-team playoff had been instituted in 1998, the year of the BCS's inception:

  • Tennessee [102,455]
  • Florida State [82,300]
  • Virginia Tech [66,233]
  • Oklahoma [82,112]
  • Miami [74,916]
  • Nebraska [86,304]
  • Ohio State [102,329]
  • LSU [92,542]
  • USC [93,607]
  • Texas [101,624]
  • Florida [88,548]
  • Alabama [101,821]
  • Auburn [87,451]
  • Oregon [53,800]

All but three of those stadiums have capacities above 82,000. The exceptions are Miami's Your Name Here Stadium (75k), VT's Lane Stadium (66k) and Oregon's Autzen Stadium (54k). Each would have hosted once. Since the capacity of the Fiesta Bowl is 63k and the Orange Bowl is held at the same place Miami plays home games, stadium size cannot be a reasonable objection. In the event a tiny stadium would get to host, make them move the site to a reasonably close stadium of appropriate size, or just count your money from the many, many times college teams with capacities 20k larger than the biggest pro stadiums have hosted. Problem solved.


So that's a bad argument. But it's not the worst. This is the worst:

BCS executive director Bill Hancock has said there are questions about whether some college campuses had the infrastructure necessary to accommodate the crush of fans and media attending a college football semifinal.

"The infrastructure needed on campus is significant," Hancock told the Associated Press. "That's a factor. That's just one example of the intricacies that are part of this."

Bill Hancock wonders if college football stadiums have the infrastructure to host college football games.


You can't make this up, because if you did people would hit you really hard with rolled-up socks.



April 25th, 2012 at 11:47 AM ^

This is a classic case of using stupid reasons to justify the real reason that you can't say.  And that is that warm weather teams don't want to potentially play at a cold weather site.  They all currently mostly play near home and don't want to give that up.

I think the B1G should stand firm.  Home games are the only way.

One other thought, who would want to go see a Semifinal, then turn around and head to the Championship Game a week or two later?  People will wait and see if they can just go to the Championship Game and semifinals might actually not sell out (even though the TV ratings would be through the roof.)


MI Expat NY

April 25th, 2012 at 12:14 PM ^

I wouldn't be so sure.  NCAA basketball regionals fail to sell out domes all the time, and that is with four fan bases.  Even the final four is a fairly easy ticket to get.  

If neutral site games did sell out, it would be a much more sterile, super bowl type environment rather than your typical college football neutral site game.  You're just not going to get 25k-40k fans from a fan base to travel three times in a month in and around the holiday period (conference championship game, semi final, final).


April 25th, 2012 at 12:20 PM ^

In a home-field situation they would absolutely sell out.  However, if Michigan fans had to travel to Miami for a semi-final and then Pasadena for the champ game, many would not do both.  Half would pass on the semi-final hoping for the final, and the other half would go to the semi and then not be able to afford or have time for the final. 

If you happen to be a school very near one of those games (USC/UCLA for the Rose Bowl, LSU/Bama/TAMU to the Sugar Bowl, etc) then you might be able to do both if you only have to drive to one of those.  But for many teams (All of the Big Ten, Pacific NW, Texas/Oklahoma, ND, VT, etc) travelling twice is not feasible.  If Wisconsin and Washington met for a semi-final in Miami, how many fans would be there?  But if the game was in Seattle or Madison, the home team would have tons of fans and the visiting team would have about the same number willing to travel.  Then if the home team wins (likely since they would be the higher seed) you have a fanbase full of people who haven't yet needed to shell out $$$ for plane tickets and hotel rooms and are willing to do so for the National Championship.  If the away team wins, you're no worse off than in the other scenario.

James Burrill Angell

April 25th, 2012 at 12:17 PM ^

The BCS Bowl games are in the SEC or Pac-10/12 regions and the ACC figures figures they're close enough with the Big 12 close enough. Pretty much aids those conferences in getting home games since people are more likely to travel the closer they live. We're going to take it in the rear end as the minority on this one. No way around it.


April 25th, 2012 at 12:49 PM ^

Agreed there's no way the SEC, let alone the combined might of the SEC, Big 12, PAC-12, and ACC will ever allow this to happen.  They get the increased exposure that comes from better bowl records and lowered travel costs.  I say Delaney needs to call them out on it and insist on using Ford field, Soldier Field, etc. as possible neutral sites.

Admittedly this runs into issues of sharing the stadium with NFL teams, but I think it would make for a good counterargument.


April 25th, 2012 at 12:57 PM ^

That's basically what happens to B1G baseball every year; since it's "too cold" to play games up north of the mason-dixon (which is sometimes true, but often times not), B1G teams have ridiculously long road schedules so that people don't have to risk having a game where the whether might be less than 50 degrees. Southern teams don't want to see snow, ever, if possible. 

If we look at college football for what it is, then it is entirely ridiculous to not have some cold weather games. First and foremost, I'm sure the NCAA recognizes the players than enter the NFL won't get the option of saying, "you know, maybe I WON'T play this week in New England. It's a little chilly." Second, for the 99% that won't make the NFL, you're just coddling them until they get into the real world and recognize there isn't a group of 60 year old white guys blowing their noses and putting up padding so they won't be exposed to anything too tough. These people play football! They can handle cold weather! If a B1G team is ranked #1, the #4 (or whoever) team should have to come to them! If they didn't want to have to play in the cold, they should have played better during the season.


April 25th, 2012 at 1:34 PM ^

You don't play baseball in bad weather and the weather in the north is far less reliable. It's not about 50 degrees. Playing in the north dramatically increase the liklihood of cancelling the event.  I don't know how you can complain about this reality.  But yeah, it is unpleasant too.  There's just no reason for the southern/western schools to do it.



April 25th, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

The reason is that the NCAA will get a significant kick-back (in one form another) from neutral-site bowl games.  In the 'home-game' scenario the athletic departments will get most (or all) of the revenues.  The NCAA has clearly demonstrated that, despite it's stated purposes, it will sometimes aims to generate revenue for the organization itself, rather than do what is best for individual schools.



April 25th, 2012 at 3:15 PM ^

OK, blaming it on the 'NCAA' as a whole is unfair, but it's better than blaming it on 'The BCS'.

My point is that the bowls esssentialy act as lobbyists to influence the system to their favor.  It's not a systemic revenue maximization at all, but favor is curried on the interests of key decision-makers.

Even if the semi-final game isn't called "The Orange Bowl', if it's held in the same city and stadium, a lot of the same parties will be playing the same roles.


April 25th, 2012 at 5:22 PM ^

... but it's not just the southern teams not wanting to play in the cold.  Having your marquee events in the South or Southwest generally means not having to worry about what to do if a freak snowstorm shuts down the airport and the roads around your site.  Even if your response is "why worry?  we'll have the cash already", people who want to attend will have to worry, and that does impact their decision to give you their cash.  [I think a neutral site proposal that included the Big House would get shot down for the same reasons.]

Also, I've seen a lot of responses from people saying "Michigan/Ohio State/etc. handle this problem every day!".  Michigan and Ohio State and Notre Dame aren't typical colleges, though; we've had a lot of practice hosting high-profile football games that draw people from all over and could take this in stride.  Schools that don't routinely sell out their home stadium might have more trouble.  [That said, Michigan/OSU/et al. *are* typical of the top echelons of college football in this regard, so as Brian points out this is not likely to be an issue in practice.]

In short, there are legitimate reasons not to plan on scheduling events in places where they are more likely to get cancelled or severely impacted by weather.  There aren't serious obstacles to asking major college football powers to host an extra home game in December.



April 25th, 2012 at 11:58 AM ^

That's just perfect. And hilarious and sad.

If Cincinatti gets a bid couldn't they just play it at the Bengals' stadium? Which is still, oh, 50k smaller than the Big House...

Plus neutral site big-time football games are always great! right?

El Jeffe

April 25th, 2012 at 12:35 PM ^

That's an insane suggestion.

First of all, Paul Brown Stadium is like 4 miles from Nippert Stadium. What if college students don't have access to a car or a motorcycle or a bicycle or a skateboard or rollerblades or a friend's car or a city bus or a shuttle that takes students downtown?


Second of all, the fact that UC already plays some of its games at Paul Brown Stadium tells you all you need to know. Can't work if you've already done it.


Third, although PBS is smaller than many college sites, it has really awesome luxury boxes that could sell for a high price, thereby making guys in sportcoats a lot of money. Another strike against home or near-home games.



April 25th, 2012 at 12:06 PM ^

My sense is Hancock was referring to stadium parking infrastructure and mass transit sites, whereas college campuses typically serve populations that are relatively 'on-site' already. Bowl game sites have to expect droves of RV trekkies, commuters from far and wide, and public transportation options to be completely saturated.

Speaking from experience, when you go to the Rose Bowl, you enter a parking lot expanse that can obviously handle a colossal draw of humanity (RVers, commuters from far and wide, tailgaters, trailers, etc.). Public rest-facilities at the Rose Bowl have showers, or are modified to have showers for the RVers. There are sufficient out-lots to handle parking and tailgating needs for the rest of the influx. There were marked public transportation sites that avoided confusion and dangerous crowding or bottlenecks.

I don't think these are scoffable concerns, although I do believe with reasonable planning and orchestration these concerns can be fairly mitigated.


April 25th, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

Not trying to be rude, but are you serious?  An NFL Stadium, take the Super Dome or Georgia Dome, Joe Robbie Stadium or Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, is even less equipped to handle the "colossal draw of humanity," all showing up in RV's.  

 Have you been to a SEC game where 1/4 of the fans show up in RV's.  Or a Penn State or any big time college stadium?  This argument is nearly as laughable as Hancocks!



April 25th, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

When they charge $150+ for the ticket, you aren't going to have as many Arborites who can afford to go to the game. You are going to get a lot more alumni travelling into the city than even a game like UTL. The problem becomes where do you store the RVs for more than a day? Do you have enough hotel space? Are there enough restaurants to accomodate all of the visitors? Is there any reasonable form of public transportation from various parts of the city/neighboring cities to get people to the stadium? People come to home games for a day. People make a vacation out of the post-season, which is why it's a concern.


April 25th, 2012 at 12:46 PM ^

Of the 75,000 non-students who attend a Michigan home game, 65,000 or more live outside Ann Arbor.  The city has no problems handling that number of people coming from outside the city.  A playoff home game would see very little difference from a Michigan - Ohio game.  People drive in, park, tailgate and drive out.  People travelling from out of state find rooms in Ann Arbor, Plymouth, Brighton, etc.  Drive in, park, tailgate, drive out. People who have RV's do the same.  They drive in the night before like always, park tailgate, go home.

 This happens every Saturday in the fall in college towns across the United States.  People are now trying to create issues where there are none. 


April 25th, 2012 at 1:37 PM ^

I have to believe you are overestimating the number of students that attend Michigan games. Given an attendance of 115k, your assumptions would suggest 40k students in attendance.  Not even close to that many buy tickets.  I would believe that close to 80k fans commute to football games in the Big House 8 Saturdays every fall.  Point remains, I think Ann Arbor could logistically manage a championship game.


April 25th, 2012 at 2:31 PM ^

Yes, very rough math assuming 25K students out of 100,000 total fans.  As you said the overarching point is Michigan has 75K or more people coming in from outside the AA borders to attend a game.  The same thing happens on every single campus of every single major player in college football.  The infrastructure argument holds no water. 


April 25th, 2012 at 2:51 PM ^

Absolutely agree with everything you've said. I've been to games at OSU, UM, PSU, Tennessee, ND, etc. Everyone one of those campuses/stadiums/cities is used to having masses of humanity show up for game day from out of town. They all had parking in place to handle thousands of cars and RV's. All had shuttles/busses to handle off campus parking lots. And all had the hotels/food industry/miscellaneous stuff to handle visitors. For the money that these schools will make off of these games, they will make sure to have plans in place to handle the crazy atmosphere.


April 25th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

but not far away from it.  Most are driving in.  With a post-season game that could be triple the price, you'll have far more out of region people and non-alumni, who won't be comfortable nor have the desire to rent cars and drive in from a neighboring city.

The bigger issue is that Ann Arbor (which hosts large-scale national-level events regularly and is located 20 minutes from a major international airport) is far better equipped to handle this than many other schools.


April 25th, 2012 at 12:17 PM ^

I agree about that being a real concern.  The only question I have is whether it is a paper tiger in that smaller (small-ish) college towns like Ann Arbor, for example, are able to handle the mass influx of people on a regular basis.  If Michigan were to host a playoff, would the logistics really be that much different than any other football Saturday?  It may in fact be much more complex, I'm just not sure.



April 25th, 2012 at 1:53 PM ^

but hotels and restaurants.  Most college campuses are used to 80-90% of attendees driving in from the surrounding region and tailgating, not flying in, staying in hotels, taking taxis, and eating at restaurant.

Cinncinnati is actually a legitimate city - but small college-towns like Storrs, Corvallis, Charlotsville, Champaign, etc. are going to struggle with providing for a national-scale event on short notice.

It's something that can be overcome, but a legitimate concern.



April 25th, 2012 at 3:05 PM ^

But with a dramatically increased ticket price and a high-profile game, you will have a lot more out-of-area fans.  Ann Arbor can probably handle it, weather permitting.  Other places will have a much harder time dealing with, say, 10-20K additional out-of-towners (beyond a normal game day) dropping in.


April 25th, 2012 at 2:19 PM ^

that show up at the Big House for every home game?  How would these games cause any more logistics problems that the ND night game last year?  

Or all the caravans that you see all across SEC country in the fall?  

This is about two things.  First, the schools in the south don't want to have to play up north after September.  And second, the men in ugly jackets still want their cut.  They've still got enough pull to make this happen.

Don't forget these are the same people who put together the NCAA hockey tourney.


April 25th, 2012 at 12:01 PM ^

be another one right? I mean these guys can't actually believe what they are saying can they? Or are they literally stupid people making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to be stupid? Is there an unspoken objection, a real reason, why they don't want the games to be home?


April 25th, 2012 at 12:31 PM ^

The unspoken objection is that the SEC and anyone south of the Mason Dixon line doesn't want to have to play a game in any of the following venues, in the winter:

  • Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Lincoln, Nebraska
  • University Park, Pennsylvania
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • East Lansing, Michigan
  • Seattle, Washington
  • South Bend, Indiana
  • Iowa City, Iowa


April 25th, 2012 at 12:38 PM ^

You just uncovered two more "infrastructural" concerns: heat and crowd cover. I can't imagine many B1G stadiums, or stadiums north of the Mason Dixon, have heating systems in their stadiums, or canopies against the elements. Try selling a $150 ticket to a 35+ year old fan and his kids who are going to have to shiver out a winter game in Michigan. God help you if it rains or snows.


April 25th, 2012 at 1:02 PM ^

Lambeau has a heating system underneath, but it's only necessary because it's a hybrid grass field.  A turf field, like Michigan's, shouldn't need to be heated. (EDIT: I guess Minnesota's field is turf. Did anyone actually get hurt in that game?)

The stands at Lambeau, other than luxury boxes and club seats, are metal benches. And somehow, fans survive.

Having attended several December games at Lambeau, cold's discomfort is overrated. You can pretty easily stay warm with layers as long as the crowd is packed into the stadium. And there are a lot of kids who make it through those games just fine. If you know how to dress, and have winter boots, you'll be fine.


April 25th, 2012 at 1:09 PM ^

And I admit, or rather would expect, that the weather would only be as ferocious as it's ever been for OSU, which isn't bad at all. But I wouldn't say vocalizing a concern about heating and weather infrastructure at stadiums and venues such as Michigan Stadium is wholly misplaced.

Lambeau Field might be as good a comparison as you can find, but a sell-out crowd in Green Bay is just over 71,000, and that crowd is wildly favorable and advantageous to Green Bay. Now, the idea that crowd favoritism and advantage would play into the decision-making here is laughably ironic, but where the BCS's biggest criticism is the unlevel playing field re: bowl selections (currently tipping hard toward the SEC), it wouldn't do the BCS any favors to subject itself to the same, or heightened, criticism in the reverse.


April 25th, 2012 at 1:10 PM ^

The University of Minnesota's stadium, for example (not that the Gophers will ever be in one of these games), does NOT have the required heating system that NFL stadiums such as Lambeau filed do which makes the field's surface playable in the winter.  When the Metrodome collapsed and the Vikings had to use U MN's stadium 2 December's ago, there were significant concerns about the frozen playing surface and player safety.  They did find a way to play the game, but at significant cost and according to some players (Chris Kluwe) at significant risk to the players. I am guessing this actually would be a significant concern at other Big 10 stadiums.


April 25th, 2012 at 2:55 PM ^

These kind of concerns are easy to dismiss because they either haven't happened yet or are infrequent.  Ironically, this is the same sort of mentality (looking backwards and not anticipating problems) that gets the BCS killed publically.

These issues may be small, unlikely, or easy to overcome, but when the many small issues are totalled up and when some of them become not-so-easy-as-we-thought, it creates a bad situation for the people responsible for running this thing.

Pointing to the best case scenarios goes for both sides of the debate and proves very little.  Pointing to the worst case scenario isn't much better, but is probably more worth discussing from a planning perspective.

Yinka Double Dare

April 25th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

Yeah, no one goes to NFL playoff games in Chicago or Green Bay or New York or Philly or Pittsburgh or Seattle or Cleveland unless they're in a luxury box, right?  Who would pay over 100 bucks to sit in the elements?

(Yes, I included Cleveland as a joke, everyone knows there's no such thing as an NFL playoff game in Cleveland)


April 25th, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

Great point, I can't believe someone didn't bring it up earlier!

"Try selling a $150 ticket to a 35+ year old fan and his kids who are going to have to shiver out a winter game in Michigan. God help you if it rains or snows."

That is exactly why the Steelers, Giants, Bears, Packers, Patriots, Seahawks, Browns, Bengals, and Jets consistently have empty stadiums come December.  

*rolls eyes, again and again and again* 

EDIT: Beaten to the punch...