Monday, December 05, 2005

Don't Hate the Playa, Hate the Game


That's the message here. Don't hate the people or schools or even the bowls involved in the decision-making of who goes where. It's the system stupid! First, we asked for an explanation by the Music City Bowl and Georgia Tech officials. We got one. First from the Music City Bowl as to why they chose UVA:

Music City executive director Scott Ramsey said his bowl needed a team that would sell tickets, and Virginia looked like the better bet.

"That was probably the feeling of the committee," Ramsey said. "Virginia did as good as anybody selling us on their program and their fan base. They really impressed us the last week and a half to two weeks. Virginia was probably the most organized and prepared. Their organization, preparation and consistency made it a good feel for us."

The Virginia athletics department sent the Music City a marketing program that included newspaper, TV and radio ads, a postcard mailing to season-ticket holders, an e-mail campaign and a dedicated bowl Web site. But it wasn't just the athletics department that made an impression, Ramsey said. Several hundred Virginia fans e-mailed and called the Music City expressing their enthusiasm about the possibility of coming to Nashville.

Dave Braine provided his response to those comments:

"We have the Web sites, and we have the postcards, and we have everything else," Braine said. "It comes down to one school outbidding another school. When you have a 7-4 record which is better than Virginia's, and when you have a 5-3 conference record which is better than Virginia's, you shouldn't have to buy a game.

"Until the ACC does something about bowls taking schools because of the number of tickets they'll sell and fans they'll bring, we'll have this situation."

Braine said he told Ramsey Tech would buy 20,000 tickets and bring 10,000-12,000 fans.

"Scott Ramsey from Day 1 gave every indication to us that he would take Virginia. None of us believed the conference would let him do that." ACC officials could not be reached Sunday night.

Now, these comments all beg some questions:

1. Who REALLY choses bowl teams? We all believe it's the bowl itself, under a small number of picking rules based on their pecking order in the conference. Based on Braine's comments, the ACC clearly has leverage to get things changed.

2. If the ACC can make changes to the bowl line-ups beyond what the bowls want, why didn't the ACC help the Jackets? Was there a feeling that UVA had to drop down the bowl list last year due to finals and this was the "payback" year? Remember that the Jackets were helped in our bowl situation last season because of UVA's final exam schedule.

3. Dave Braine says that the Music City director was saying "from day one" that they would take UVA. However, do we remember Dave Braine's comments about the possibility of going to Nashville a week ago? See here.

11-28 article

Conversations with bowl officials on Sunday confirmed what Tech athletics director Dave Braine said Saturday night, that the Music City Bowl in Nashville Dec. 30 remains the Yellow Jackets' most likely destination.

So obviously we must conclude that the Music City was saying UVA, but that Dave Braine was getting some kind of message from the ACC that they would not let that happen. Obviously no help came. So why is that?

4. Is this a fan-base support issue? Is it really about the money? Or is there something else? Is Georgia Tech a REAL member of the ACC? We will never be attractive to the north carolina bowls and contingent. Florida has FSU and UM. We have a strong but smaller fan base. We don't sellout our stadiums, but we're pretty much middle of the pack in terms of attendence. Our sports teams are typically all competitive, but rarely compete yearly for titles (except golf). The general media covers Tech from a fringe perspective. Heck, the general media doesn't even call us "Tech" in their articles. "Tech" is of course VaTech for them. I live in South Carolina and the sports radio shows here talk about UGAg as much as Clemson and SC - but rarely the Jackets. Is our problem that we just aren't anybody's enemy? Duke and Carolina are clear enemies and generate tons of hoops discussion. The Florida schools are the same. For many ACC fans, Georgia Tech is their "other favorite school". The fans are generally nice, not obnoxious. I don't know......... The discussion boards are lighting up with discussions about going back to the SEC. There are interesting points on both sides. Personally, I'm an ACC guy. I think it's the better overall conference and I don't want to see a switch. However, you have to admit, the atmosphere during our SEC games is a different level than almost any ACC football game we play. Just not the same. Sorry for the rambling.

4. Let's dig deeper into this marketing issue. First Music City Bowl officials said that UVA had an entire marketing package prepared and ready to go. They mentioned a website. All I could find is this - link here. If this is what the Music City officials were impressed with, shame on them.......... In addition, they sent a package with radio and TV adverts, a postcard to fans, an email campaign, etc. Nothing magic about any of this. UVA just did it first and did it more aggressively...................... Then there was the viral marketing campaign. The emails and calls from fans. Oh - outfoxed on this one. A show of overwhelming force. Should have launched a campaign ourselves. They outfoxed us - period. Here's another quote from the Music City Bowl chairman - "But we're really happy with Virginia. I would say out of everybody, they probably were the most aggressive, the most organized from a presentation standpoint. They already had marketing materials and commercials and ads.'' ......... However....................

5. Ticket gaurantees. This is what Dave Braine was alluding to when he said that we shouldn't have to "buy a game". It was quite a strong statement from Braine. He was basically indicating that UVA must have promised a higher ticket gaurantee. He promised 20,000 tickets from the Jackets with a fan showing of 10,000 - 12,000. However, I found this blurb about UVA's commitment to tickets:

U.Va. and Minnesota each will receive an allotment of 10,000 tickets.
Littlepage hopes Virginia will sell more than that, but he said he made no
promises to Music City officials, and they didn't ask for any.

"We just don't go down that road," Ramsey said. "We've never been in a
bidding war with anybody, and that was the case here."

6. Meanwhile the Tire Bowl in Charlotte had this to say about picking NCST:

This bowl was formed with the thought that we would have a
team from the Carolinas or from Virginia just about every year. It works well
for us."

So, in the end it comes down to attractiveness, fan support and the almight dollar.

Here's a quote from ACC commisioner John Swofford from a week ago about the bowls:

Jacksonville — There's nothing in the ACC's contracts with its affiliated bowls to prevent a division champion from falling through the pecking order all the way to Boise or beyond. Look for that to change next season.

"We're going to need to talk through some things for next year," ACC commissioner John Swofford said Saturday night before the inaugural ACC championship game. "The dilemma that you have is what bowls want to accomplish [tickets sold, hotel rooms filled] is not always in sync with what has happened competitively on the field."

The ACC next season starts new four-year contracts with the eight bowls it will send teams to this postseason — the Orange (the Bowl Championship Series) in Miami, the Gator in Jacksonville, the Chick-fil-A Peach in Atlanta, the Champs Sports in Orlando, the Meineke Car Care in Charlotte, the MPC Computers in Boise, the Music City in Nashville and the Emerald in San Francisco.

"It's not necessarily the same order, and it's not necessarily the same contractual agreements," Swofford said, adding the new contracts will swing the balance more in favor of teams with better records than teams with larger fan bases.