Few go to those kind of bowls now. While the average attendance per bowl game was over 50,000 last season, that number is buoyed by the 91,245 that attended the Rose Bowl, the 80,956 for the Cotton and the 78,237 for the national championship, among others. There were 67,563 in the stands for WVU's Orange Bowl rout.
For Marshall's Beef O'Brady's Bowl, on the other hand, a sad 20,072 showed in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Poinsettia Bowl drew 24,607. In Washington, D.C., the Military Bowl drew 25,042 and in Albuquerque it was 25,762.
With the playoffs, such bowls will go from fourth-class status to, at least, fifth-class. Now, we have the national championship bowl, the BCS bowls, those such as the Cotton and Capital One and then the remaining potato bowls. Add the semifinals to the mix, as well as the announced SEC-Big 12 version of the Rose Bowl, and the potato bowls will be even less interesting.
The potato bowls, however, won't go away. And the reason is enough of us watch to make them profitable to - surprise! - ESPN.
See, the World Wide Leader is smart. It doesn't sell advertising allotments specifically to potato bowls. Time is sold in packages. Clients are placed across its entire postseason schedule.
And then there's this: ESPN owns seven bowls. I'm not stating the network owns the rights to seven bowls, it owns seven bowls.
A conflict of reporting interest? Absolutely. But by owning seven, the network assures itself sufficient inventory to sell and broadcast.
Of the seven bowls owned by ESPN, only one game drew more than 30,300 fans to the stands last season: that Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, which drew 68,395 to Houston.
The others - the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Beef O'Brady's Bowl, MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and BBVA Compass Bowl - are among the games we complain about, but still check out on TV.
So, yes, the "baby bowl" games will be devalued. Yet ESPN owns 20 percent of the 35 bowls.
And as long as the network is making potato skins, those games will survive.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.