There are 35 bowl games which, obviously, means 70 of the 125 available FBS teams will extend their respective seasons into late December or early January. And the vast majority of them will take massive losses thanks to unsold tickets.
Schools are required to buy a massive amount of tickets - usually in the neighborhood of 17,000 - at ridiculous prices - face value is typically $70 or higher, street value for the vast majority of bowls is usually under $10. Add in the fact that most bowl trips require buying a plane ticket, and you've got a scenario that equals a lot of empty seats.
ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted out the complete list of schools that sold out their bowl allotments this year and, let's put it this way, the entire list fit within two tweets. In all, 15 of the 70 (21.4 percent) sold out. There's a pretty common thread shared by each of the schools, either an impressive season leading to a bowl game that captures the imagination of the fan base and/or a game within driving distance.
Auburn - BCS National Championship: Obvious reasons
Florida State - BCS National Championship: Obvious reasons
Stanford - Rose Bowl: It's the Rose Bowl
Michigan State - Rose Bowl: It's the Rose Bowl, and they haven't been in 25 years
Vanderbilt - BBVA Compass Bowl: Strong finishing kick, within 200 miles of campus and the game's on a Saturday
Missouri - Cotton Bowl: Season played out well above expectations, large alumni base in Dallas-Fort Worth
Rutgers - Pinstripe Bowl: Playing Notre Dame, close to home, and the game's on a Saturday
Notre Dame - Pinstripe Bowl: Large Fighting Irish fan base in New York
Texas - Alamo Bowl: Mack Brown's final game, and it's only 70 miles from campus
Alabama - Sugar Bowl: As far as consolation prizes go, is there anything better than a trip to New Orleans?
Oklahoma - Sugar Bowl: Playing Alabama, within driving distance, and it's New Orleans
Mississippi State - Liberty Bowl: Less than 200 miles from campus
Ole Miss - Music City Bowl: Driving distance from campus, and the Rebels haven't played in the Music City Bowl since 2000
Bowling Green - Pizza Bowl: Fresh off a MAC championship, and Detroit is an hour and change from campus
And then the one surprise: Oregon. The Alamo Bowl is a step down from Oregon's last four bowl trips (Rose, BCS National Championship, Rose, Fiesta) and it's not easy to get from Eugene to San Antonio. Let's give Ducks fans the bowl season MVP award.
The other 55 schools will be returning some of that multimillion dollar payout heading their way. Most conferences will defray most of those losses, and the system is changing to protect schools from such a large overhead cost, but the point remains: you'd rather drive to your bowl destination than fly. Of the 15 sellouts, 10 schools are within driving distance of their bowl site, and four are headed to either the BCS National Championship or the Rose Bowl.