The Capital One Bowl faced a tough decision earlier this month -- take the SEC team with the most curb appeal (Texas A&M) or go with the most deserving on paper (Georgia). The Orlando-based bowl took Georgia, which pleased the SEC. The league didn't want its championship game runner-up trickling down the non-BCS bowl pecking order. A bowl game has to consider its relationship with its league affiliation when making the decision.
Two bowl executives estimate this decision might have cost the Capital One at least $500,000 because of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel's impact on ticket sales and other streams of bowl revenue. Meanwhile, Cotton Bowl CEO Rick Baker said his Texas A&M-Oklahoma matchup could break Cotton Bowl attendance records.
Nearly a month after the decision, however, Capital One Bowl CEO Steve Hogan says he doesn't regret a thing. Georgia is the deserving team, he says, and despite the economic impacts on bowl ticket sales around the country, he's still expecting attendance of the Jan. 1 game to reach the 57,000-60,000 range. The last three games have been in the low 60,000s, preceded by a crowd of 59,681 in 2009. The Citrus Bowl holds about 70,000.
"I know a lot of people speculated about A&M, and that's a nice story, but we're very happy wtih the way everything ended up," Hogan said. "Georgia's been great. We're pretty much in good shape. We're really not that far from where we are on average."
This is no knock on Georgia. The Bulldogs are a good draw, one of the country's strongest collegiate brands. But the Capital One might be a letdown for Bulldogs fans who watched their team miss a national title berth by a few yards.
Georgia has reportedly sold more than 10,000 tickets so far, while Nebraska has sold fewer than a third of its 12,500-ticket allotment. The national fiscal cliff coupled with Nebraska's dubious 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game don't help matters.
Hogan says the Manziel impact is hard to predict because fans often follow their brands more than one player.
"In the end, we really do want to try to find a way to have a team where, if you look a coach in the eye or the AD and say they deserve to be there, there wouldn't be other schools saying that's ridiculous," Hogan said. "That's the thing we've always wanted to avoid. We ended up like we always do -- taking a team that deserved to be there.”