Big Ten bowl delay could hurt fan travel costs

December, 3, 2008
12/03/08
6:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

My good friend Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for CNBC and used to do the same for ESPN.com, had an excellent blog post earlier this week about how the Big Ten's delay in announcing bowl pairings likely will increase travel costs for fans

Flights aren't getting any cheaper, and in an already struggling economy, Big Ten fans could have some tough decisions about whether or not to travel to their teams' bowl games. Keep in mind that Big Ten fans usually have to travel farther than anyone else to bowls and live in states (Michigan, Ohio) that are being hit extremely hard by the economic downturn. 

While other leagues already have announced bowls, the Big Ten likely will wait until Sunday to announce all the pairings because the league hopes to get two teams into BCS games, which would shuffle the selection. Penn State fans are the only ones who can book their bowl travel plans right now. 

It's a tough situation. Non-BCS bowls like the Outback, Alamo and Insight could assume Ohio State will get a BCS at-large berth and extend invitations to teams that they think will be available after the final BCS standings are released. But things could change this weekend, and bowls could miss out on more attractive teams.

Still, Rovell brings up some excellent points as he describes his own difficulty in trying to attend Northwestern's bowl matchup:

When you look at the attendance for these second-tier bowls, you are going to see one thing that's going to be interesting. While you'll still be able to correlate size of fan base to butts in the seats, you'll notice that the bowls that will do better will be the bowls in which at least one of the teams is within a 12-hour drive. That's probably the max someone is willing to drive, even with cheap gas prices. ...

The only thing that can be done for me is for the Big Ten and the bowls to realize that, for the sake of these unprecedented times, they should announce all the Big Ten slots [minus where Ohio State goes] now. Otherwise, I'll be watching on my flat screen.

I went to a major travel Web site and looked at air travel costs from Big Ten-area airports to some possible bowl sites, based on two- or three-night stays. I'll revisit this in a few days to see if these costs increase. These are estimates.

OHIO STATE

Possible bowl destination: Fiesta (Jan. 5 in Tempe, Ariz.)

Roundtrip travel cost: $315, departing Columbus on Jan. 3 and returning from Phoenix on Jan. 6. 

Possible bowl destination: Sugar (Jan. 2 in New Orleans)

Roundtrip travel cost: $305, departing Columbus on Dec. 31 and returning from New Orleans on Jan. 3.

MICHIGAN STATE

Possible bowl destination: Capital One (Jan. 1 in Orlando)

Roundtrip travel cost: $373, departing Detroit on Dec. 30 and returning from Orlando on Jan. 2. 

Possible bowl destination: Outback (Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla.)

Roundtrip travel cost: $418, departing Detroit on Dec. 30 and returning from Tampa on Jan. 2 (note: You could reduce the cost by flying into Orlando, only 81 miles away). 

IOWA

Possible bowl destination: Outback (Jan. 1 Tampa, Fla.)

Roundtrip travel cost: $499, departing Cedar Rapids on Dec. 30 and returning from Tampa on Jan. 2. 

Possible bowl destination: Alamo (Dec. 29 in San Antonio)

Roundtrip travel cost: $348, departing Cedar Rapids on Dec. 27 and returning from San Antonio on Dec. 30. 

NORTHWESTERN

Possible bowl destination: Alamo (Dec. 29 in San Antonio)

Roundtrip travel cost: $372.50, departing Chicago on Dec. 27 and returning from San Antonio on Dec. 30.

Possible bowl destination: Outback (Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla.)

Roundtrip travel cost: $402, departing Chicago on Dec. 30 and returning from Tampa on Jan. 2.

WISCONSIN

Possible bowl destination: Champs Sports (Dec. 27 in Orlando)

Roundtrip travel cost: $344 (with two stops) departing Madison, Wis., on Dec. 26 and returning from Orlando on Dec. 28. The cost would be $365 nonstop departing from Milwaukee. 

Possible bowl destination: Insight (Dec. 31 in Tempe, Ariz.)

Roundtrip travel cost: $458, departing from Madison, Wis., on Dec. 29 and returning from Phoenix on Jan. 1. The cost would be $402 (with two stops) from Milwaukee. 

MINNESOTA

Possible bowl destination: Champs Sports (Dec. 27 in Orlando)

Roundtrip travel cost: $330, departing Minneapolis on Dec. 26 and returning from Orlando on Dec. 28. 

Possible bowl destination: Insight (Dec. 31 in Tempe, Ariz.)

Roundtrip travel cost: $480, departing Minneapolis on Dec. 29 and returning from Phoenix on Dec. 31. 

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