Friday, January 6, 2012

Bowls are cash cows for Gulf Coast leisure and tourism industry

image Yesterday, a USA Today story tried to foist the notion on us that bowl attendance was at a historical low by using mathematical trickeration. You’re supposed to believe that bowls are money pits, sucking the life out of college football like a black hole sucks up solar systems.

But from Mobile to New Orleans and beyond, business is booming during what used to be one of the slowest parts of the year for the tourism industry.

The Bowl will be played Sunday night at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, which is hosting Arkansas State and Northern Illinois. Yesterday, the Mobile Press-Register reported that the game was nearly sold out and hotels throughout the city are booked.

Monday night, the New Orleans Superdome has the BCS Championship game between Alabama and LSU, and the tourism business from the Big Easy to Biloxi is booming.

Taryn Sammons, media relations manager with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that while the bureau has "no idea" precisely how much south Mississippi will rack up as a result of the game, it's likely substantial.

"The New Orleans folks are saying regionally it's a more than $400 million economic impact," Sammons said. "New Orleans is 100 percent sold out, and people are staying in Baton Rouge and Mississippi.

"It's very positive for us and we're very excited."

Yesterday’s USA Today story produces a reasonable argument that the market for bowl games is approaching saturation. With 35 bowl games being played this year, fans have had ample opportunity to participate in the annual college football postseason tradition. But flat to falling average attendance indicates that the likelihood of adding any more bowls to an already crowded slate is remote. Indeed, the number of Football Bowl Subdivision schools would have to increase substantially in order to produce a pool of bowl eligible teams capable of filling slots in any more bowls.

But for the bowls we have, the economic impact is substantial and should be an important consideration in any process that alters the college football post season. If you’re going to make the argument that there are too many bowl games, then you’re going to have to justify the decision to contract the market by deciding which regional economies you’re going to harm by eliminating their bowl game.

At the same time, you’re going to have to convince college presidents, conference officials, players, coaches and fans that your high and mighty agenda is much more important than their postseason. Good luck with that.

In this economy, taking away an economic impact measured in hundreds of millions of dollars means a lot of people don’t have jobs.

Exit Question: So, playoff zealots, BCS anarchists, Grinches and Tim Brando’s, answer this: Which community are you going to ruin Christmas for next year? Shreveport?

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