According to Kentucky native John Showalter, a committee member of the Taxslayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, the answers would be yes and yes.
“Information is kind of fluid right now about everything,” said Showalter. “Yes, there will definitely be bowl games. Each bowl game is doing things kind of different but we always do all operate independently. That’s why each bowl will operate differently this year like any other year.”
The Taxslayer Gator Bowl is played at TIAA Bank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
“We will follow whatever fan model the Jaguars have,” Showalter said. “For the first NFL game, they allowed 17,000 fans. We hope that number goes up because honestly because with 17,000 fans we (the bowl) will lose a lot of money quickly.”
Bowl game dates have not been announced but Showalter expects the date for the Taxslayer Gator Bowl and most other bowls to stay the same as other years.
What about picking teams? How will that work with every team likely not playing the same number of games or knowing exactly what might happen with the Big Ten and/or Pac-12?
“I know there are a few of the smaller bowls that have already folded,” Showalter said. “We are lucky. The Big Ten dropped off us and we are SEC-ACC affiliated.”
Since both the ACC and SEC have stood firm in plans to play, Showalter is hoping the Gator Bowl’s association with the two conferences will pay off at selection time.
He believes bowls will aim for regional matchups if possible. Maybe a Florida-Florida State Gator Bowl. Or perhaps a Kentucky-Louisville Music City Bowl in Nashville.
“For travel and ticket sales, regional matchups will just make a lot of sense this year,” he said. “I would think the Music City would be all over Kentucky-Louisville. That would seem obvious with them not playing this year and the regional aspect of the matchup.”
Normally a team must have six wins and at least a .500 record to play in a bowl. That should change this year even though the benchmark for wins has not been set yet for 2020.
“But the bowls that are left are going to want teams to play,” Showalter said. “Bowls need teams to play to have games.”
One bowl aspect that will definitely change is payouts to teams. With limited attendance at best, revenue is going to be down as Showalter noted even with TV contracts still intact.
“I know we are pushing back with a lot of other bowl games on the payouts. I know the payout issue is not unique to us. We are working with conferences on that. Leagues need to work with us so bowls don’t go bankrupt,” Showalter said.
“Teams are already saying that may not come for a whole week like past years. It will be more like an away game. Fly in the day before, do a walk through, play the game the next day and fly home.”
With limited attendance, bowl ticket prices likely will be higher this year for those who do attend.
“Fans know the demand will be there, so makes sense for us to raise ticket prices before secondary vendors do it,” Showalter said. “If we don’t raise prices, somebody else is going to do it.
“Bowls are not the lucrative games they were 10 to 15 years ago or 25 years ago when everybody sold out,” Showalter said.
Showalter says it only makes sense that TV ratings will increase for bowl games this year. He also wonders what limited attendance at bowls — or other college games — could mean long term.
“Home viewing has been a challenge for a long time,” Showalter said. “You don’t have to pay pay parking, buy tickets, spend on concessions. There are a lot of advantages to watching at home and I don’t think any of us know what impact this will have on bowl attendance long term.”