Opinion: Flashes’ fate



Jody Michael

When I was younger, I would watch the college football bowl games on television and imagine a day in the near future when Kent State would be in one. I’ve lived in Portage County my entire life, so Kent State has always been my local team. Now that the Flashes have gone 38 years without a bowl invitation, I don’t even consider it anymore.

On Dec. 20, Kent State hired Darrell Hazell to be its new head football coach. Hazell said in his introductory press conference that he wants the team to be known for winning instead of losing. Winning seasons would put the Flashes in nationally televised bowl games, which leads to more exposure and possibly getting better recruits.

Having said that, the more I learn about how the NCAA’s bowl system works, the less I want to see Kent State fall into its scam. Let’s imagine a future with a Flashes bowl game, shall we?

Let’s face it; our football team won’t be in a glamorous, high profile bowl game anytime soon. Our conference’s affiliated bowls are in less-attractive locations like Detroit, Boise, Idaho, and Mobile, Ala.

When a team accepts a bowl game invitation, the bowl typically requires the team to purchase about 10,000 tickets that the school can then sell to students, families and other fans.

Kent State did average 15,000 fans at its home football games this season, but the number who would be able and willing to go to a bowl game in Boise or Mobile would undoubtedly be lower.

Why? For one thing, the bowl selections don’t come until two weeks before the end of the fall semester, when most students already have travel and flight plans for winter break. Plus, students wouldn’t get in for free. If you went to a game this year, you probably noticed about half of the student section would leave the game at halftime, so I wouldn’t count on them shelling out a few hundred bucks for a bowl game.

Not only would the athletic department almost certainly lose money on tickets, it would also have to add travel and lodging costs for the team, meaning an even bigger loss.

The schools receive some of the bowl game’s revenue but nowhere near all of it. Oftentimes, the bowls keep more than half the revenue for themselves. We can’t expect bowl revenues to cover the aforementioned losses, especially if attendance is meager.

How do I know a Kent State bowl game would have such negative effects? Well, Sports Illustrated recently reported on college football’s postseason profiteering, and this is exactly what happened to fellow Mid-American Conference school Western Michigan University.

In 2008, the Broncos played in the Texas Bowl, which required the athletic department to purchase 11,000 tickets for the game in Houston. It sold just 548 of those tickets, resulting in a $462,535 loss, which doesn’t even include travel and lodging.

That’s no fluke. Last season, Ohio State received only $2.2 million of more than. That didn’t even cover team expenditures and unsold tickets, which meant a $75,597 loss. In 2009, Virginia Tech only sold 3,342 of its 17,500 tickets to the Orange Bowl in Miami, and the school lost $1.77 million.

If our athletic department loses money on the bowl game, it will need to make up for that loss somehow. We shouldn’t expect the university to cut spending to account for the loss when it can just increase tuition.

If going to a bowl game means losing hundreds of thousands of dollars when our university already faces huge deficits, I don’t think it’s worth going.

That’s not the fault of Hazell or anyone in the athletic department. The NCAA is responsible for this and needs to undergo major bowl reform, including a playoff system that actually makes bowl games financially beneficial for colleges.

Until then, I wish Coach Hazell the best of luck in continuing the Flashes’ tradition of five-win football seasons.

Jody Michael is a sophomore broadcast journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].