... and that reason is Jerry Sandusky.
Penn State was (and is) poisonous. Too toxic, even at 9-3, for a bowl game with as little national renown as the Insight Bowl. Too toxic, even at 9-3, for a bowl game with as little national renown as the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. So the Insight took 7-5 Iowa instead of the Nittany Lions, and the Meinke selected 6-6 Northwestern instead of the Lions.
But we all knew that. I bring it up today because, as Marc Morehouse's On Iowa blog illustrated in this recent post, Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta was working the Insight Bowl for a second-straight Hawkeyes invitation before the bowl decided to eschew Penn State in favor of Iowa.
Barta cited a lot of numbers. One that had very high relevancy was the attendance for last year's Iowa-Missouri game at Tempe's Sun Devil Stadium, a bowl-record 53,888. That's one that the bowl surely didn't dismiss.
Others were oversold a bit.
“Despite having to go head-to-head against the National Football League on television, the ESPN broadcast of the 2010 Insight Bowl featuring the Iowa Hawkeyes recorded a 2.24 rating, a whopping 460 percent increase over the 2009 broadcast available on the NFL Network," Barta wrote. "The 2010 rating was just shy of the event’s average rating of 2.4 over 18 events."
OK, a 2.24 rating on a Monday night for a game that started at 10 p.m., Eastern time, isn't bad. Not great, but not bad. However, that 460 percent thing sure sounds good. It doesn't mean much, but it sounds good.
See, the NFL Network had the Insight Bowl from 2006 through 2009. That network has never been available to anywhere near as many households as ESPN. The Insight's ratings on the NFL Network were low.
2006 - Texas Tech vs. Minnesota 0.93 (lowest of any bowl that year)
2007 - Oklahoma State vs. Indiana 0.40 (lowest of any bowl except the Texas Bowl, which was also on the NFL Network)
2008 - Kansas vs. Minnesota 1.20 (lower than all but three bowls, including the Texas)
2009 - Iowa State vs. Minnesota 0.83 (next-to-lowest of all the bowls)
To see TV ratings for all the bowls since 2002, click here.
The Insight Bowl hadn't jacked up its payouts and gotten better teams from the Big Ten and Big 12 until last year. So it had generally mediocre matchups (Iowa State-Minnesota was a meeting of 6-6 teams) on a network that got into nowhere near the number of households ESPN did. ESPN acquired telecast rights to the Insight Bowl prior to last year's game.
That average rating of 2.4 over 18 events is certainly skewed by the four years the bowl was carried by the NFL Network.
"The last time the Iowa Hawkeyes played a team from Texas in a bowl game, the bowl game and its television partner had a really good day — the 2006 Alamo Bowl between Iowa and Texas was the most-watched college bowl game in ESPN history (to that date). The contest earned a 6.0 rating which translates into 5,521,220 households and 8.83 million viewers when considering a 1.6 viewers-per-household factor,” Barta wrote to the Insight folks.
All true. The 5.99 rating the game got was higher than any bowl which wasn't a BCS game. Of course, the Outback, Gator, Cotton and Capital One bowls were played simultaneously for almost two hours on Jan. 1, 2007. But the Alamo Bowl was played two days earlier at 4:30 ET on a Saturday with no other football game butting against it.
Still, the 5.99 rating was pretty, pretty good. But did that TV audience tune in to see a 9-3 Texas team with quarterback Colt McCoy, or its 6-6 Iowa counterpart?
Hey, Barta was just doing his job, and I'd say he did it well. He was trying to get Iowa as good a bowl as possible, and putting the best spin on facts as possible. It's the way of the world and has been since cave men were selling fire and the wheel. You make your product look as appealing to possible customers as you can.
But when the Meineke Car Care Bowl took 6-6 Northwestern over a 9-3 Penn State team, you know what persuaded the Insight to bring in Iowa for a second-straight year. It wasn't its Alamo Bowl TV rating of five years ago. It wasn't that 2.24 Insight Bowl TV rating of last year.The reason was the sludge that Penn State is dragging around because of Sandusky's alleged sexual abuse of children. Had that not seen the light of day before Dec. 4 when the bowl-pairings were set, Iowa would be preparing to play Texas A&M in the Meineke.