The 2011-2012 bowl selections will be made Sunday evening, and the bowl fate of Penn State is very much uncertain due to the recent month of chaos surrounding the football program. The scandal and its development has caused many to wonder if Penn State will even be offered a bowl bid, and whether it should accept a bid should it be offered one.
Penn State will be offered a bowl bid without a doubt, and it should and will accept this bid. The reason Penn State will be offered a bid is because it is a great financial decision for whatever bowl offers Penn State. Penn State has one of the best fan followings in college football, and with all due respect to Iowa and Nebraska, Penn State will bring in far more revenue than those schools, and does so each and every year in bowl games. This year, in particular, Penn State will bring so much attention and notoriety to the bowl that is lucky and intelligent enough to select Penn State. It will become one of the most watched and most interesting bowl games outside the BCS in terms of storylines. It will bring in so much revenue from ticketing, merchandise, and subsequently, advertisements. Selecting Penn State and all that comes with it would be the smartest economic decision a bowl could make: the combination of revenue and attention its advertisers will be given will be much higher if the Nittany Lions are selected.
The Lions should accept a bowl bid for two reasons: First, the current Penn State players had nothing to do with the scandal and they deserve to play. That is the common argument, so I will at least acknowledge it here. However, the biggest reason Penn State should and will accept a bowl bid is because of the money that comes with it. Penn State would lose out on a lot of money for itself and the Big Ten Conference by not going to a bowl game. Penn State has an athletic department that is fully supported by the football program; no other program at the university runs a profit. Therefore, although it sounds cynical and shallow to some, it is the truth. Penn State needs to accept a bowl bid because of the money it will bring in. Penn State made a statement to potential bowl suitors that it would donate $1.5 million to sex-crime advocacy groups. This was certainly a PR statement that will help in Penn State’s search and hope for a big-time bowl. While there may have been some sincerity in the statement, its main purpose was to appeal to those who would be selecting the program’s postseason bowl fate, to make a statement that selecting Penn State to its bowl won’t be a mistake.
So which bowl will it be for Penn State? The Nittany Lions are eligible for every bowl game that accepts Big Ten teams except for the Rose Bowl, which Wisconsin locked up last night. Therefore, that leaves the Capital One Bowl, the Outback Bowl, the Insight Bowl, the Gator Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Ticketcity Bowl, and the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (in order of prestige). The Capital One Bowl will select either Michigan or Michigan State, whichever does not qualify for a BCS Bowl. The Outback Bowl then comes down to only Iowa, Nebraska, or Penn State from the Big Ten. Call it a feeling, but I believe the Outback Bowl will want Penn State over Nebraska, and certainly over Iowa. If not Penn State in the Outback Bowl, then it would fall to the Insight Bowl, unless the Insight Bowl reached all the way down to Ohio State, which has some great storylines of its own, including the new reign of Urban Meyer and renewed interest in an already historic program. At that point Penn State could fall all the way to the Gator Bowl, which also would not be a bad bowl to play in, but would certainly not be the Outback Bowl.
My gut tells me that these bowls are economically smart enough to pick Penn State to attend. The Outback Bowl is my selection for where Penn State will play, and if it isn’t, the Outback Bowl is missing a great opportunity to make a lot more money than it would with Nebraska or Iowa. The Insight Bowl and Gator Bowl are two other options if the Outback Bowl makes a mistake and does not select Penn State.