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Inside the Meteoric Rise of College Football Bowl Games

As the number of bowl games continues to expand, the original concept of community-based events remains true, according to the Football Bowl Association.

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The number of college football bowl games has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

Originally, they were meant as community-based attractions to bring people to town, like the Rose and Orange bowls, said Wright Waters, the executive director of the Football Bowl Association. As the number of games has exploded — from 19 in 1990 to 40 this year — Waters said the general concept is still the same.

“There is still a benefit to the community,” he said. “It’s like an Olympic city; you’re listed in USA Today every day for at least a month and you’re on TV. Local communities want to be a bowl city.”

While the overall economic impact of each bowl varies greatly — especially as it deviates from the traditional and major bowl games; there were only 11 in 1970 and eight in 1960 — Waters said there are significant benefits for the communities and schools involved.

“I’m OK with the number of bowl games,” Waters said. “The reason we have so many is the benefit of going to a bowl game is so significant.”

READ MORE: Are Bowl Games Really Worth It? 

He said spring practice season has become so greatly restricted, the extra three weeks of practice for bowl games is important for the teams. It also provides an extra win for many teams.

“The neat thing is, in the bowl system, half the teams end the year with a win, unlike other championships,” Waters said. “It allows coaches to recruit with ‘We won a game and are on the way up.’”

Waters also pointed to the ability for universities using the bowl games as a fundraising opportunity, and he believes the “Flutie Effect” is real — applications for admission go up with a team’s win on national television.

The surge in bowl game numbers really started in 2000, Waters said, and it was in the ensuing decade ESPN really began pushing Bowl Week — the early slate of bowl games leading into Christmas. Those bowls are great for content fillers and provide the local communities with an event to rally around.

They, however, have little economic impact, said Bruce Seaman, associate professor in the department of economics at Georgia State University. Seaman regularly studies the economic impact of bowl games and sporting events, especially of those in Georgia State’s home of Atlanta.

Seaman, unlike Waters, is concerned there might be too many bowl games, but jokes with a jovial tone about the subject. With a larger field, the importance of bowl games becomes greatly diluted.

“We have too many; that’s clear,” Seaman said. “At some point we’ll have so many the only criteria will be two wins.”

There is a slew of teams with 6-6 records in bowl games this season, and there have been five teams with 5-7 records in the past 12 years.

“I’m OK with that,” Waters said of the records. “As long as we’re ranking them by academic progress, I’m OK. Isn’t it neat we’re rewarding them for being good students instead of penalizing them?”

READ MORE: Inside the Event Management Playbook for College Football Bowl Games

It also keeps the end of the regular season competitive for more teams, Waters said.

“I’m old enough to remember when we didn’t have but 20 bowls,” he said. “Now, it’s the last week of the season and teams are jockeying for their sixth win or getting to seven because it improves their bowl outlook.”

If teams start to decline their bowl invitations, then the bowl season might start to look different — but for now, Waters said the communities across the country will continue to want to host and teams will want to play.

“We rarely hear a team that qualifies say, ‘We don’t want to go,’” Waters said. “Teams and universities want to be on national TV, and it’s important to make the numbers work, but there are different ways to do that.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesport.com.

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Kyrie Irving Expected to Sign with Roc Nation

Kyrie Irving is expected to sign with Roc Nation, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

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Kyrie Irving is expected to sign with Roc Nation, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

Irving, who was most recently repped by Jeffrey Wechsler of 24/7 Sports Management, joins an NBA client roster at Roc Nation that includes the likes of Kevin Durant, Josh Hart, Justise Winslow, Danny Green and Caris LeVert.

The switch in representation comes on the same day that Irving took the first step toward his prospective free agency this summer.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Irving is not opting into his $21.3 million contract for the 2019-20 season and will become an unrestricted free agent.

By not opting into his contract, Irving can sign with any NBA team when free agency opens on Sunday, June 30th.

If he signs with a team other than the Celtics, he will be eligible to sign a max deal worth $139 million over four years.

If he were to stay with the Celtics, Irving can sign a five-year deal worth $188 million.

An industry source speculated that Roc Nation could be waiving the fees on Irving’s contract in order to retain his marketing rights.

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Meet the WNBA’s New Boss

Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert will become the first commissioner of the WNBA and the first woman to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

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*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

For the first time ever, the WNBA will have a commissioner. Before now, all of the league’s previous leaders like Val Ackerman and Lisa Borders were given the title of president. 

Cathy Engelbert, the current CEO of Deloitte, will take control of the role on July 17th and will report directly to Adam Silver. 

What should you know?

1. By the time she is done at Deloitte, Engelbert will have spent more time at the company (33 years) than the WNBA has been a league (23 years)

2. Engelbert is the first female to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

3. She is the fifth person to lead the league after Val Ackerman (1997-2005), Donna Orender (2005-10), Laurel Richie (2011-15) and Lisa Borders (2016-2018)

4. Engelbert has spent the past four years in charge of Deloitte’s U.S. operation.

Basketball is in her blood…

Although she might be an accountant by trade, Engelbert is no stranger to the game of basketball. 

According to Bob Hille of Sporting News, she played at Lehigh for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw and was a team captain as a senior. Her father Kurt also played and was drafted in 1957 by the Pistons.

What are they saying?

“Cathy is a world-class business leader with a deep connection to women’s basketball, which makes her the ideal person to lead the WNBA into its next phase of growth. The WNBA will benefit significantly from her more than 30 years of business and operational experience including revenue generation, sharp entrepreneurial instincts and proven management abilities.” – Adam Silver on the hiring of Engelbert

“I think that’s probably one of the reasons I was selected for this role, to come in and bring a business plan to build the WNBA into a real business and a thriving business, quite frankly.” – Engelbert to ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel

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Adam Silver Wants More Gender Diversity

The NBA commissioner states his desire to get more women into the sports industry. The NBA currently has a 31.6 percent ratio of women in team management.

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*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

If Adam Silver has his way, 50 percent of the new incoming NBA officials will be women.

That number applies to coaches too, Silver said speaking at the Economic Club of Washington.

How do the leagues stack up?

The following numbers, outside of MLB, come from 2018 reports put together by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. MLB is the first league to have a report done on it this year.

1. NBA – 31.6% of team management are women / 37.2% of team professional admins are women

2. NFL – 22.1% of team senior admins are women / 35% of team professional admins are women

3. MLB – 28.6% of team senior admins are women / 26% of team professional admins are women

4. MLS – 26.5% of team senior admins are women / 31.6% of team professional admins are women

5. WNBA – 48.6% of team VPs and above are women / 58% of team managers to senior directors are women

6. NHL – No report done

Quotes from Silver… 

“It’s an area, frankly, where I’ve acknowledged that I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long. Because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing.”

“The goal is going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league. Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”

That’s not all Silver wants to see change…

Silver, who has been adamant about getting rid of the one-and-done rule, provided some clarity as to when that might be achieved.

According to the commissioner, the 2022 NBA Draft will likely be the first one since the 2005 NBA Draft to allow high school players to go straight into the league rather than playing a season in college first.

Citing “active discussions” with the NBPA, Silver noted that they are still “a few years away.”

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