By this point you’ve probably done the math and realized that, barring an insufficient number of bowl eligible teams and a win over Iowa, Nebraska will not be heading to a bowl game this year. If you’re a fan above the age of 30, you’re probably enraged that the same Huskers who won so often in the ‘90s have fallen so far. If you’re under 30, you’re probably mildly miffed that your favorite team has, for as long as you can remember, left you as the CFB mockery of your school, workplace or friend group.
Well, it’s going to be OK and making a bowl game really means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Yes, you read that correctly. The difference between making a bowl game and missing one is miniscule and ultimately irrelevant.
The last time Nebraska appeared in a bowl projection this season was 247.com’s Week 5 projections. Those projections had Nebraska playing in the Heart of Dallas bowl against the University of Texas-San Antonio. So, without any realistic bowl appearances to base predictions off of, we’re going to compare the differences between making the Heart of Dallas Bowl and not making a bowl at all.
Last year, the Heart of Dallas bowl pitted the 5-7 North Texas against the 7-5 Army. The winning school received $1.2 million. The University of Nebraska football program brought in $112,142,961 in the 2015-16 fiscal period, winding up $8,397,186 in the black. The program also also increased its revenue from 2014-2015 by nearly $10 million while only increasing its expenses by just under $6 million.
The football program missing out on an additional $1.2 million. 1.07 percent of its yearly income isn’t going to send the athletic department spiraling into bankruptcy.
Along with the money given to the school, 125 individuals connected to the team received bowl gifts tied-in with their appearance at the bowl game — for the Heart of Dallas Bowl those gifts were a gift suite, an Amazon Echo Dot and a football.
According to SBNation.com, gift suites are “private events in which participants can pick from a variety of items — from electronics to jewelry and even furniture — worth up to a total of $550.”
The winner of the game also receives a trophy, but those are the only tangible benefits of playing in the bowl game. Of course on the intangible side there’s exposure for the program and the bragging rights of winning the Heart of Dallas bowl. But at the end of the day, the exposure gained from winning a minor bowl is barely noticeable, and with 78 of the 131 Football Bowl Subdivision schools splitting spots in 39 bowls, an appearance in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl seems like a meaningless participation award for a team achieving a .500 season.
Also worth noting, neither Army nor North Texas walked away with a College Football National Championship title regardless of their appearance in the Heart of Dallas bowl game, as crazy as that is.
In college football a title is all that matters, so missing a bowl that isn’t named the Allstate Sugar Bowl or the Rose Bowl doesn’t really change the standing of a program.
In the hierarchy of bowl season, there are some bowls with more credibility than others and had the Huskers reached one of the top-tier bowls, it would have been a really positive thing for the program.
But most preseason projections had the Huskers finishing somewhere between 5-7 and 7-5 placing them in a second or third-tier game. Fiscally, Nebraska’s program will look about the same next year with minimal difference in its finances if it had qualified for one of those games.
As for next year’s team’s on-field performance, a bowl appearance, or lack thereof won’t affect all that much. In the end, Nebraska will be fine without a bowl appearance, it won’t be the end of the program, and the bowl-less Huskers will enter 2018 in a similar situation to that of a team which had played in one.