Why is the Rose Bowl a bigger draw than the Playoff Semifinals?

Wanted to make a quick observation before the College Football Playoff bowl games begin later this afternoon –

Yesterday, I read a USA Today article that said that the Rose Bowl is actually drawing a higher ticket cost than either of the two CFP playoff games, commanding an over 30% premium on the secondary market. It got me thinking about why this would be? The Rose Bowl brand has built up this game as one, if not the most popular bowl game every year. But with the creation of the Playoff and the Rose Bowl not a semifinal game this season, the average fan would assume that it would not be as popular on the market as it is.

So, I wondered if the participating programs and their brands themselves are affecting it? A quick personal analysis is below –

 

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Peach Bowl

#1 Alabama

This is the Crimson Tide’s third straight appearance in the CFP, including one national championship last season. The university’s fan base expects to be in the national title game every season, so the diehards are not focused on the Peach Bowl semifinal. They are not going spend their money on this game, when they believe they will advance to play for a title the next week. This is allowing the average Alabama fans an opportunity to see their team compete in a significant game, but it does bring the ticket costs down for the semifinal.

#4 Washington

The Huskies are in a New Year’s Six/BCS bowl game for the first time since the 2001 Rose Bowl, in addition to having a chance of winning a National Title! So, I am very surprised that many of their fans are “not” driving up the price of this ticket. The Huskies have a chance to not only advance to the Title game, but also beat the top brand within the sport. So, the only thing I could think of would be the cross-country travel that Huskie fans would have to take in order to see this game? Yes, it is a long trip, but having a chance to play for a National Championship seems like an opportunity to make a moment to last a lifetime. I am surprised by the potential “lack of interest” in this game for Washington fans.

 

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Fiesta Bowl

#2 Clemson

While the Tigers have been growing their brand successfully under Dabo Swinney, the problem is that Clemson is still not known as flagship brand in college football. The Tigers have an appearance in the National Championship, a Heisman finalist in QB DeShaun Watson and become one of the top programs in the ACC. However, with the Fiesta Bowl’s ticket prices not being up to par with the Rose Bowl, I wonder if Tigers’ fans are in the same situation as Alabama fans? In that they are expecting to be in the Championship game again this year. Or, it could be that the fan base only cares about beating one team this season (Alabama) and simply views Ohio State as a simple roadblock, even though this maybe the most competitive bowl game of the season.

#3 Ohio State

The Buckeyes are a flagship brand within the sport and are back in the College Football Playoff after a year away? So, why would this year’s Fiesta Bowl have less demand than last year’s meeting versus Notre Dame? I wonder if there is fatigue for Ohio State fans having to go back to Glendale, AZ for the second year in a row. Another reason could be that last year’s game against the Irish featured two of the greatest programs in the sport’s history. Lastly, the Buckeyes have experienced a championship in the CFP Era and probably expect another one this season. Saving money for the title game sounds very familiar when you compare the Columbus fans with Alabama and Clemson this season.

 

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Rose Bowl

This game consists of two top programs that are looking to make their way back to the top of the sport after a rough couple of years.

#5 Penn State

The Nittany Lions program has had a rough couple of years. A surprise conference championship has lifted the Penn State brand back into the eyes of the average college football fan. A victory in the Rose Bowl can officially announce their national championship aspirations to the rest of the New Year’s Six participants. James Franklin has done a great job of building this program back to success over the past three seasons, with great recruiting classes that paid off this season. A win over another former flagship program in USC will help solidify their Big Ten Championship this season, even without a CFP appearance.

#9 USC

Clay Helton was on the hot seat earlier this very season, after a 1-3 start by the Trojans. They are not coming into Pasadena on a roll, winning eight straight with a freshman QB, as well as an upset of CFP participant Washington. The USC Trojans are a flagship college football brand, but after the struggles it has had under Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, it needs a marquee victory to cement itself as a championship contender in the eyes of college football fans. A victory like this, could begin their rise back towards a title and becoming the top sports draw in Los Angeles once again.

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The Brand Impact of the College Football Coaching Carousel

Merry Christmas Everyone!… Here’s a picture of a Dancing Santa for your amusement.

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You’re welcome!

Anyway…

The College Football regular season is over and we are now in the middle of Bowl Season. Sure it is always a lulled time before New Year’s Weekend, when the best bowl games take place.

However, this period has seen plenty to analyze from the perspective of College Football Branding, thanks to this year’s “Coaching Carousel”. When Willie Taggert was named the head coach of Oregon earlier this month, he talked about how impressed he is with the brand that Oregon Football has built and how this brand is ready to win a national championship. “The unique and innovative qualities that the Oregon brand poses over the national landscape provide us with the opportunity to be successful at the highest level on a consistent basis,” Taggert said at his press conference.

The brand of the Oregon Ducks has become synonymous with innovation and success since the turn of the century. So when their head-coaching job became open after firing Mark Helfrich, I wondered why 90 – 95% of coaches wouldn’t throw themselves into the mix? How did Oregon’s opening compare to the other openings with College Football?

So I took at look at the 17 FBS (Division 1) Head Coach openings and wanted to rank them based on their program’s brand notoriety, in my personal opinion, both before and after they hired their new coach. Below are my rankings –

 

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  1. (Before Coaching Hire 16). San Jose State

The Spartans hired Brent Brennan, who previously worked at the university for 5+ years, so they get a guy that has experience with the school. However, there is just nothing special to me about this hire. Especially for a team that has had a losing record over the past four seasons, including making a bowl with a 5-7 record.

 

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  1. (15). Georgia State

– The reason why they are higher on the list than San Jose State is because the school will be switching to an Under Armour school starting next school year. A new apparel provider and new head coach can help the football program begin a brand revamp for next season.

 

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Nevada

  1. (13). Nevada

– Another hire that doesn’t really do anything for me in my impression of the Nevada football brand. Right now, all I know them for is as Colin Kaepernick’s alma mater. However, they went to bowl games in 2014 and 2015 with their previous coach Brian Polian, Bill Polian’s son. So, they fired a guy with a football pedigree for Arizona State’s offensive coordinator… As a representation of the Wolfpack’s brand, this is a move down in my book.

 

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  1. (17). Florida International

– Before this past month, I could not tell you where Florida International was located in the state? (It is Miami by the way) The Panthers made an impact by hiring former Miami and North Carolina head coach Butch Davis to take over the program. With the rise of the other mid-tier Florida schools like South Florida, Central Florida and Florida Atlantic, FIU made a move by hiring a guy who has experience recruiting in the state and it give the Panthers some brand recognition given Davis’ coaching history. It deserves a rise in my rankings thanks to this move!

 

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  1. (12). Fresno State

– Athletics Director Jim Bartko had talked about how important it was to find a new coach that had Fresno State ties after one of the worst stretches in Bulldog Football history. Hiring former QB Jeff Tedford sounds exactly like the type of coach Bartko is looking for. The Bulldogs have gone through a very rough stretch over the last three seasons, going 10-28 after winning two straight Conference Championships in ’12 and ’13. The alma mater of the Carr brothers has developed a great brand reputation over the years thanks to their consistent success. Having an alumnus take over the program is a positive, but we will see if Tedford can be as successful as his first eight years at California.

 

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12 (11). Purdue

– Purdue has had a problem maintaining a presence for their brand in the Big Ten since Joe Tiller left the school after the 2008 season. They have not qualified for a bowl game since 2012, let alone ten years since they have had a better regular season than 6-6. In the crowded Big Ten Conference, the Boilermakers did not do their brand any favors when they were not able to secure a “bigger” name that they were rumored to be after, Les Miles and PJ Fleck. However, their hire of Jeff Brohm from WKU is great for the program, who has said that the challenge of building back up the Purdue brand was one of the reasons for taking the job! Coming from a program with a successful program pedigree over the past decade with such an impressive offensive mind (45.1 PPG this season; 2nd in the Country), this should bring a sort of firepower and fear to Purdue’s offense that they have been missing (100th in the Country).

 

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  1. (10). Cincinnati

– Why would a program that has a new Under Armour apparel contract, 9+ wins in seven out of the last ten years, and a previous coaching tree featuring Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) and Butch Jones (Tennessee) be this low on my list? Under Tommy Tuberville, it feels like the program has regressed, dropping from 9 wins in his first two years, to three straight bowl losses and a 4-8 season this year. The Bearcats are a long way away from their previous accomplishments under the three coaches listed above. But their new coach, Luke Fickell, comes from Ohio State learning under Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel. He even has head coaching experience, taking over the 2011 Buckeyes after Tressel resigned due to the fallout of an NCAA investigation. Fickell has bided his time and learned from some of the best coaches in the sport, waiting for his opportunity to lead a program. Is he the one to lead the Bearcats to non-Power 5 dominance and New Year’s Six appearances? We shall see, but his pedigree is a plus for the Cincinnati brand!

 

NCAA Football: FAU Press Conference

  1. (14). Florida Atlantic

– Do you remember a time where the announcement of the new head coach of the Florida Atlantic Owls was the top story on Sportscenter? Or that their first commitment is a top story on ESPN.com last week! Yes, Lane Kiffen is known as a “pariah” by some in the NCAA and within the minds of College Football fans. But this is a coach that will receive constant national attention, allowing Florida Atlantic to become known to the casual college football fan. The former Oakland Raiders, Tennessee and USC head coach also has a chance to turn FAU into the Florida chapter of Alabama, considering he “intends” to hire some Crimson Tide personnel once the CFP has completed! With regards with turning the Owls into a national brand, this was the biggest hire during the 2016-17 coaching carousel.

 

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  1. (7). Indiana

– Maybe the reasoning is a little harsh, but my primary reason for Indiana falling is because they could have done so much better than Tom Allen. Look at some of the names that were/”could have been” on the market at that time – Strong, Fleck and Miles were on the market, but didn’t even get a chance to interview. I understand that they wanted to keep the program’s momentum after making their second Bowl appearance in a row since 1991, but IU seemed like it would be a job some of these coaches would be very interested in. I understand why they hired the “in-house” Hoosier, but I just wonder if they settled too quickly…

 

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  1. (8). Western Kentucky

– Look at the last three head coaches of the Hilltoppers and where they are at now – Willie Taggart (South Florida; Oregon), Bobby Petrino (Louisville), Jeff Brohm (Purdue). A combined record of 54-34 between these three coaches. The WKU brand has become a job that is desired for coaches who are ready to take their next steps towards a Power 5 job, as confirmed by their hiring of Notre Dame OC Mike Sanford. Look for Sandford to be up for a Power 5 job within the next 2-3 years based on the WKU reputation.

 

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  1. (9). South Florida

– I believe that Charlie Strong did not get enough of a chance at Texas. He helped give Louisville a brand revamp when they were known only as an offensive specialist under Bobby Petrino, to being efficient on both sides of the ball. Strong has always been an excellent recruiter, had the respect of the players he coached and always had a goal of turning his players into “young men”. Ever since the first day Strong was hired at Texas, he was facing an uphill battle after one of their biggest boosters claimed that Strong could be a great “coordinator” for the Longhorns… Strong will get his chance to continue the momentum built at South Florida and their 10-2 season. Strong’s history at Florida and recruiting expertise will only help him make his mark in this football rich state. The question will be whether the Bulls will start to compete with Miami, Florida and Florida State with Strong leading their program.

 

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  1. (6). Temple

– Temple’s profile as a football brand has risen higher than I think the program expected over the past couple of seasons. Winning 10 games over the past two seasons, two conference championship game appearances (one title) and rising to the national stage after ESPN’s College Gameday visited Philadelphia for their ESPN Saturday Night Football matchup with Notre Dame. They lost the game, but they opened many national eyes. The average college football fan forgets that the previous Owl coaches Al Golden (Miami) and Steve Addazio (Boston College) built this program, but Rhule helped them rise to national respect. Now, they have a significant enough brand where Florida’s DC Geoff Collins is becoming their head coach and Under Armour has a great relationship with the school. The Owls are built to stay!

 

Houston v Oklahoma

5 (5). Houston

– The program decided to go the safe route by hiring internally, their OC Major Applewhite, the side of the football that led to much of their success over their Kevin Sumlin and Tom Herman eras. These coaches returned the Cougars as a recognizable brand across college football, but the question will be whether Applewhite can maintain this momentum? The Cougars could have risen in my rankings if they took a chance on another finalist (look at how much Florida Atlantic’s profile has grown in the past week), but they made the safe call and are giving a staff member, and Texas legend, his first head coaching opportunity. If Applewhite can use his reputation in the state to successfully recruit top talent, the Cougars’ brand momentum can continue to grow, even outside of the Big 12.

 

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  1. (3). LSU

– LSU is still a top brand name, but I don’t think they are as much of a major player in the College Football landscape as the Baton Rouge fans think they are. Case in point, the two coaches they went after, Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman, declined the job. The Tigers are still looking up in the SEC to Alabama, Florida, Auburn, Georgia, maybe even Texas A&M in brand recognition. They just haven’t been able to win that much in the last decade, especially this season. With so much hype at the beginning of the year, they lost their first game to Wisconsin, Leonard Fournette was injured for most of the year and then there was the Florida game fiasco. Which they ended up losing anyway! LSU has a long way to go and we will see how Ed Orgeron performs after actually finally getting an “interm” tag removed.

 

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  1. (4). Baylor

– Wait, I have put Baylor this high even before their new coaching hire? After everything that has come out about the program in the last year? True, but any football fan knows about the Baylor brand in today’s landscape, both for the scandal and on-field performance. Which means that this vacancy was going to result in a lot of coverage and analysis of their chosen coach. The Bears needed a coach that has the respect and coaching prowess to build back the brand’s reputation in the eyes of the casual fan. I believe they have done that. Matt Rhule is coming off an impressive turnaround of the Temple program that included a Conference Championship, 10-win seasons and a “Saturday Night Football” appearance in the last two seasons. This is exactly the type of “good” hire that the Bears’ brand needed, both on-the-field and off, with fans in Waco agreeing.

 

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  1. (1). Oregon

– Oregon’s brand isn’t greatly affected with the hire of Willie Taggart. What they have built in Eugene given everything from their uniforms, marketing strategy and Nike partnership, Oregon football is built to last and overcome an occasional 4-8 season. I think it is a good hire, but not the great one that would keep the Ducks at the top spot in my eyes for two reasons. One, rumor has it that Phil Knight was willing to donate $10 Million Dollars (!!!) to help with the coaching search, which I believe could get ANY coach he really wanted. Secondly, yes Taggart led South Florida to a very impressive 10-2 season after an 8-5 year in 2015. But his overall record with the Bulls was still 24-25 in four seasons there; so he wasn’t exactly dominate in the American Conference, including the lack of a conference title. That said, I will be very interested to see what type of culture Taggart will bring to the Ducks.

 

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  1. (2). Texas

– Plain and simple, Texas got the guy they wanted in Tom Herman. It is who the boosters have been drooling over for the past year and he is a “Texas Guy”, being a former Graduate Assistant at the school. They have one of the largest Nike contracts in the College Football market and produce the second-most athletics revenue within the entire NCAA. These numbers will not change for the foreseeable future and these factors is what led to me putting them number one on my list of the notable brands needing a new head coach.

Battle of the Brands – Championship Weekend

We are finally here!

The most important week of the College Football Season begins tonight with the MAC and Pac-12 championship games. Eight titles games will be played between tonight and tomorrow, along with the pseudo-Big 12 championship being determined in Oklahoma.

As a follow-up to my earlier blog post during the season, I am taking a look at the representation of Nike, adidas and Under Armour in each championship game and how their schools could impact the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl games.

To reiterate, these rankings and thoughts are my own perceptions of how each brand is performing during this college football season.

 

Brand Rankings

  1. Nike
    1. Guaranteed Championship – SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC, Mountain West
    2. Possible Championship – Big Ten
    3. Top 10 teams in the CFP – Nine (9) if you include Michigan
  2. Under Armour
    1. Guaranteed Championship – American
    2. Possible Championship – Big Ten
    3. Top 10 teams in the CFP – One (1)
  3. adidas
    1. Possible Championship – MAC, Conference USA
    2. Teams in the CFP – None (0)

 

Implications in the Playoff and/or New Year’s Six

 

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Nike

  • They are the dominant brand in College Football again in 2016 and barring any surprising results over the weekend; they are in line to represent all four teams in this year’s Playoff for the third straight season!
  • The main problem Nike will have this weekend is the “in-fighting” that will take place could remove the brand’s flagship programs from Playoff contention.
    • SEC – Not a lot of drama for the swoosh in this game… Alabama could lose this game (which they won’t) and would most likely still be in this year’s Playoff. Florida, without a conference championship since 2008, is still one of the top brands within the sport.
    • Big 12 – Both teams need to win this game and have a lot of help in order to have a chance to get into the Playoff. Both are fighting for the right to call themselves the best team in Oklahoma. Both teams are represented by Nike. This will still be a great game and it will determine the Big 12 representative within the New Year’s Six bowls.
    • Pac-12 – Washington have put themselves into a position to make the College Football Playoff, after dominating Colorado in the Pac-12 Title Game last night 41-10. With this victory, it would take a blowout in the Big Ten Championship for there to be a chance the Huskies drop from #4. In addition, their performance last night over a top-10 team could make them a viable contender to beat Alabama in the eyes of the average college football fan… and perhaps in Nike’s eyes as well. Now, they simply wait until this evening to see if they are assured all four teams in the CFP are Nike affiliates.
    • ACC – In my opinion, this is a Red Flag game for Nike executives. Clemson has become a flagship program for the apparel provider over the past couple of seasons, making the championship game last season and Deshaun Watson’s rise into one of the best players in college football. However, this could all be undone if the Virginia Tech Hokies, with a first-year head coach no less, play well enough to pull an upset in Tampa, FL. This is a Clemson team who seems very susceptible to such a loss, almost losing in last season’s ACC Championship, losing to Pittsburgh this season and the Tigers should have lost versus NC State as well, but were saved by a missed FG as time expired. Nike officials will be nervous watching this game on Saturday night because it could mean a lost opportunity at another playoff appearance by a premier client.
    • Mountain West – Bragging rights go to the winning school and a bonus from Nike (and maybe a championship logo) for winning their conference. Other than that, not really much more to discuss for wither Wyoming or San Diego State.

 

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Under Armour

  • UA has the only opportunity to end Nike’s run as the only apparel provider featured in the College Football Playoff.
  • It also has a chance to provide a great, feel-good story in this year’s Cotton Bowl, depending on the result of the highest Non-Power 5 champion.
    • Big Ten – The only non-Nike school with a chance at making the College Football Playoff is Wisconsin. However, after last night’s result in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Badgers need to not only win tonight’s Big Ten Championship, but also do so in a convincing fashion. Quite frankly, they need to have a performance not unlike Ohio State’s 59-0 win two years ago that inserted them into the CFP. Not only that, but the Badgers probably need Clemson to lose in the ACC Championship to have a chance at getting in! However, no matter what happens tonight, UA have got to be extremely excited in Wisconsin’s performance in their first season with the apparel provider.
    • American – In my opinion, Navy’s performance this season may very well be the best story of the year. Ranked #19 in the country, the once college football powerhouse seems to have broken through with what could be a 10-win season and a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl. Western Michigan’s victory last night might have eliminated their chance at the Cotton Bowl, but a 70 point performance like they did last week could keep them in the running for one more week. While many bowl officials are rooting against Navy tonight due to the chaos it could cause, I am sincerely rooting for the Midshipmen to make it close because I believe this would be good for the brand of College Football to see Navy in such a prominent bowl game.

 

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adidas

  • MAC – “Row the Boat” indeed! Congratulations to the Western Michigan Broncos on completing a 13-0 season last night with a conference championship. The program has received prominent national attention through a College Gameday appearance; PJ Fleck being thrust into the limelight and adidas has provided a great amount of support to the program with a new branding and uniform combinations. Now all that remains is for the team to wait for Sunday’s rankings to come out.
  • Conference USA – This is the first season that Louisiana Tech has been under the adidas banner and both have already been rewarded with a conference championship game appearance. It won’t do much from a national perspective, but if the Bulldogs are able to win later today, this has the makings of a profitable relationship for both brands. Especially if LSU continues to remain in the mid-pack of the SEC.

 

Lastly, I want to give a quick nod to Russell Athletic, whom represents two championship game participants this weekend with Ohio (MAC) and Western Kentucky (Conference USA). The only other prominent program that I am aware of that has a partnership with Russell is Georgia Tech, so having two of their three largest program partners in a title game this season is a coup for the apparel provider!

Overall, it seems that Nike’s dominance in the College Football Playoff is likely to continue for a third straight season, barring any unexpected results this evening. But adidas and Under Armour both have a chance to crash the Swoosh’s party over the New Year’s Six weekend.