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Vandy Fans, Once Again, Let’s Talk About Bowl Selections (And SEC TV Ratings)

yelling-hard-drive-latencyYa try to explain something to folks and they just get mad.  Yesterday we tried to explain how Vanderbilt — with an 8-4 record — wound up in the SEC’s very last bowl slot.  Allow us to summarize:


*  The bowl selection process has never been fair and it’s never been about “rewarding” teams.

*  Bowls pick teams for tourism purposes.

*  Goal One is to bring in a large group of fans for a week in December or January.

*  Goal Two is to reach as many television viewers as possible in an attempt to woo more tourists throughout the year.


Seems pretty simple.

But a couple of VU fans didn’t like that.  You can check the comment boxes here.  And the ol’ inbox got a few nastier notes that our “curse” filters wouldn’t have allowed in the comment areas.  Apparently we at MrSEC have an “anti-Vanderbilt agenda.”  One person informed this writer in particular that I’m “jealous of graduates of the only true University in the Southeastern Conference.”

Ahoy, polloi!

So what… the bowls all share our “anti-Vanderbilt agenda?”  Either that or what we stated as facts yesterday are, ya know, correct.

We’re going with the latter and here are a couple of reasons why:


1.  The Liberty Bowl — which chose 6-6 Mississippi State over the 8-4 Commodores — posted on the game’s Facebook page a photo of the Bulldogs playing in the 2007 Liberty Bowl.  That game set an attendance record for the game at 63,816.  Vandy’s game in Memphis two years ago drew 57,103.  And while VU fans continue to spout numbers like 30,000 as a true attendance figure for their Liberty Bowl appearance, the reality is the school did sell out its allotment of tickets (13,000) with everything else being a guesstimate.  The Nashville City Paper wrote at the time: “(James) Franklin was impressed with the Commodore contingency that accounted for nearly 60 percent” of the crowd.  Cincinnati wears black just like Vanderbilt, so trying to decide which team black-clad fans were rooting for would probably be a bit difficult from a pressbox.  But even if VU did take 30,000 to Memphis, MSU’s game with UCF in 2007 still drew more folks to the Bluff City.

2.  Television ratings haven’t helped Vandy’s cause, either.  As we noted yesterday, “Decades of losing have made Vanderbilt less than must-watch viewing for most national sports fans.”  If you want to sell your city to millions of television viewers you need — wait for it — a game that will draw in million of television viewers.  The Commodores’ last two bowl games have ranked last and next-to-last in SEC game viewership.  Vanderbilt’s Music City Bowl matchup with NC State last season ranked 29th out of 35 holiday contests last year.  More national viewers tuned in to watch Central Michigan/Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Bowl, UL-Lafeyette/East Carolina in the New Orleans Bowl, and SMU/Fresno Sate in the Hawaii Bowl to name a few.  Oh, and Mississippi State’s Gator Bowl date with Northwestern drew in 200,000 more viewers as well.  (The Bulldogs also drew more TV eyeballs than he Dores the season prior.)


Much has been made of the Gator Bowl selecting a rematch of last year’s Capital One Bowl between Georgia and Nebraska.  It’s been pointed out to us (in both the comment areas and in emails) that UGA didn’t sell out their bowl allotment last year.

But if you check the top table below you’ll find that Georgia/Nebraska was last year’s 5th-highest rated bowl.  Hmmm.  Still wondering why the Gator Bowl would pick the Dawgs and Huskers over say Vanderbilt and Nebraska?

Once again, none of this is to say Vanderbilt didn’t get a sca-rew job.  It did.  But the reasons are fairly obvious to anyone who doesn’t sign his emails, “Anchor Down!”  Vandy doesn’t have a reputation (yet) for selling out bowls or its regular season games (in a 40,000-seat stadium).  The Commodores are also a poor TV draw when it comes to their last two bowl games.  VU fans may hate those facts.  They might not like someone sharing those facts.  But they just sound silly if they continue to try and argue those facts.

Below are the television ratings for all the SEC bowls over the last two years…


2012-13 Bowl Ratings

  Bowl   Matchup   Viewers (Millions)   Bowl Rank
  BCS Title   Alabama/Notre Dame   26.4   1
  Cotton   Texas A&M/Oklahoma   11.9   4
  Capital One   Georgia/Nebraska   11.0   5
  Sugar   Florida/Louisville   10.1   6
  Chick-fil-A   LSU/Clemson   8.6   8
  Outback   S. Carolina/Michigan   7.6   9
  BBVA Compass   Ole Miss/Pittsburgh   2.7   21
  Gator   Miss. State/Northwestern   2.2   28
  Music City   Vanderbilt/NC State   2.0   29


2011-12 Bowl Ratings

  Bowl   Matchup   Viewers (Millions)   Bowl Rank
  BCS Title   Alabama/LSU   24.2   1
  Cotton   Arkansas/Kansas State   8.3   5
  Outback   Georgia/Mich. State   8.1   6
  Chick-fil-A   Auburn/Virginia   6.1   9
  Capital One   S. Carolina/Nebraska   4.4   12
  Music City   Miss. State/Wake Forest   4.2   14
  Liberty   Vanderbilt/Cincinnati   2.9   22
  Gator   Florida/Ohio State   1.9   23



On the one hand you admit that Vandy got screwed but then you basically say "take it and shut up". Name ANY SEC fan base that would be happy with finishing 8-4 and getting sent to lowest bowl on the food chain.

A Vandy-Cincinnati bowl outdrew a Florida - Ohio State bowl by 1 million viewers so the TV ratings for traditional powers aren't always better. The blue blood jock sniffers at the Gator Bowl are just too dense to see that Northwestern got them 300000 more viewers than Ohio State.

This time VU fans get the reward of Legion Field? Slive and the boys aren't 3 miles away from there and I highly doubt that ever venture into that neighborhood in broad daylight so let's ask the Vandy fans to go there. Nothing better for an SEC office party than some champagne and lobster with a view of Legion Field? The best conference in the country shouldn't settle for a bowl in a condemned stadium.

And speaking of VU fans not going to bowls the highest attended bowl in the history of Birmingham . . .was a Vanderbilt game.


Thanks for being truthful about the situation, but without a chance to do so how does Vandy prove their worth? That is what is frustrating for us as fans we are stuck with a stigma that is unproven. It a self fulfilling prophecy no one wants to go to a condemned stadium in freezing January. Also now 2 years in a row the Gator Bowl has PO'ed Vandy fans to the point that even if they are forced to host the Dores then most fans would boycott and not give them our money. 

Also note when games are played last year the Music City Bowl was played in the afternoon on New Years Eve which is a work day for most people. Night Games get better ratings which is why all sports play mainly night games. Usually Three SEC bowl games run at the same time on New Years Day, but people usually switch between the 3 games and latch on to the most interesting. If 2 are Blowouts then the better game gets better ratings, and some people do not have Cable or only have basic. Also the opponent has to do with the ratings. No one is going to watch or care about the Compass Bowl no matter who is playing. The game is on the same day as the NFL Playoffs. 


All of this points out the dilemma schools like Vandy have. You get lousy bowls against lousy opponents, so you get lousy attendance and lousy TV ratings. Repeat annually as you are bowl eligible. Welcome to catch 22, college football bowl edition.

The way to break the cycle is to force a good bowl to take you by having an outstanding season. Then you show up in great numbers and pray your opponent will help the TV ratings (see Stanford, Kansas State, Oregon, etc.). It's not a conspiracy; it's capitalism. Build your brand nationally.


It's just how the cookie crumbles. Gamecocks are 10-2 and heading to a non-BCS bowl after beating 20% of the existing BCS field, and Mizzou is only headed to the Outback after finishing as the league's runner-up and losing only 2 games against top 10 teams. It's not fair, but at the same time reputations matter.

Leon Despair
Leon Despair

Very interesting stats on Gator Bowl viewership, Mr. SEC. Your site is unfailingly interesting, no matter what side of these things you come down on. I for one had no idea that Florida/Ohio State in 2011-12 drew only two-thirds as many viewers as did Vandy in the Liberty Bowl that same year. Or that Compass Bowl viewership exceeded Gator Bowl viewership by half a million last year! I'd like to see the Gator ratings for the entire previous decade, because based on the last two years, that bowl is near the bottom no matter who's playing in it. Since 11 million viewers watched Georgia vs. Nebraska last year, it's understandable that Gator Bowl officials might feel they can "get well" if the rematch only draws a quarter of that audience. But is that wishful thinking? What, in your view, would it mean if the Compass Bowl were to once again beat the Gator Bowl's TV audience this time around? That's what I'm predicting -- how about you?

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

Leon Despair...

The sheer number of games on New Year's Day ensures that the pie gets split in several different directions.  The SEC has three teams playing at once. for instance.

I think the names "Georgia" and "Nebraska" will still outdraw Vandy and Houston's BBVA Compass Bowl berth, but if the ratings for this year's game go up it can only help to the Commodores moving forward.  Unfortunately, it will take time to build up that reputation.  There are no magical switches to flip... just proven fan support and TV ratings over a number of years will do the trick.

On that front, James Franklin has the Commodores on the right track.

Thanks for reading the site,


John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


It still applies. 

Vandy has to build a reputation as a school that has mucho fans.  That requires selling out bowl trips, selling out hotels on bowl trips, selling out your tiny stadium for regular season games.  Yes, selling 40,000  is better than not selling 40,000.

Also, you'll need to keep winning.  Need to beat teams like Houston that have winning records.  That will improve Vanderbilt's reputation. That will help make Vandy games more interesting to national viewers.

We're beating the same drum here but you just don't speak the language.  Or you refuse to listen to reason.  I'm pretty sure the Georgia/Nebraska thing, for example, was explained above, if you'd chosen to read it.

But since the arguments here are all so naive, so daft, so dated, why don't you tell us why bowls don't want Vanderbilt.  If it's not attendance or television -- which it is -- what is it?  If the bowls could make more money and get better ratings with the Commodores, why don't they invite them?  You tell us, why does the world hate Vanderbilt?

Once you've spelled out the truth to us, perhaps you can send your explanation to Vandy AD David Williams who had this to say this week:

“I just think what people need to do is get behind their team,” Williams said. “… When people look at things, they want to see how you do. And let’s face it, the last home game we played that stadium was not full. So let’s not blame anybody else. Let’s just do what we’ve got to do, and the task at hand right now is to fill up the stadium in Birmingham and beat Houston.”




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