The Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl Is Apparently A Thing Now
The toxic sports and pop culture brand is worming its way into college football because nothing is sacred anymore.
Not all attention is good attention.
Like it or not, the Mountain West and Barstool Sports have an arrangement now.
Where the news earlier this summer regarding Jimmy Kimmel and the LA Bowl was met mostly with bemused eye-rolling, though, the news that Tucson’s Arizona Bowl would enable Barstool, valued last year at $450 million, to secure naming and exclusive streaming rights was met with much more divisive reaction:
— The Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl (@theARIZONABOWL) July 27, 2021
So broadcast companies decided they didn't want anything to do with Barstool, but the MWC decided sure, we'll take their money?
Okay. That certainly is a decision they could make!https://t.co/9qY9DavWBo
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownEP) July 27, 2021
I mean if we’re being honest the Arizona Bowl couldn’t really get any worse. Will be interested to see the streaming quality. https://t.co/pIuqekP608
— Justin Michael (@JustinTMichael) July 27, 2021
Arizona Bowl: Attendances recorded were always much higher than actual people in the stadium. games have been ok for the most part. Now Barstool jumps in as a sponsor. Hmmm. Seems like desperation but we shall see how it shakes out.
— Coach Steve “Chief” Burt (@Chiefzona1472) July 27, 2021
From a branding / marketing perspective, it's hard not to see this as a major win for Tucson and the Arizona Bowl. I kind of hate everything Barstool stands for but they make perfect sense in this category. https://t.co/lCj1sTjDUC
— David Miller (@davidmiller_az) July 27, 2021
— Tucson Tomorrow (@TucsonTomorrow) July 27, 2021
As a Barstool Athlete and UA Alumni, I couldnt be happier to hear about the Arizona Bowl and Barstool!
— Josh Offenhartz (@Johartz) July 27, 2021
We're just gonna say it now and then nuke the comments:
The Arizona Bowl sponsorship and subsequent removal from television is a damn shame, and does no favors for either the student-athletes involved or the fans who care the most. Nothing about this arrangement feels good.
— Hustle Belt (@HustleBelt) July 27, 2021
So why is this this case? If you want to be charitable, call it the tension between a company actively pivoting toward the kind of business activities — sports betting, a burgeoning podcast network and — that its more straight-laced competitors are also angling toward in the present and continually promoting the kind of juvenile/toxic/regressive content upon which it built the brand in the first place. I’m not sure who, exactly, wants to read about broken escalators or Joe Rogan’s nipples, but rest assured that a cursory search of Google News right now will bring you to both such things and, dishearteningly, both pieces are probably doing numbers that this won’t.
If you don’t want to be charitable, it’s because Barstool’s most high-profile personalities, chiefly Dave Portnoy and current CEO Erika Nardini, are assholes. A person can raise all of the money they want for small businesses and it won’t mean a thing as long as penchants for racism, misogyny, and bullying inform how they engage with the world.
Furthermore, it’s a particular shame for the Arizona Bowl, which has cultivated a number of weird and remarkably competitive games — remember when Colorado State and Nevada bowled against each in its debut, or the Wolf Pack’s wild overtime win over Arkansas State? — since its inception in 2015 and, ironically, only recently escaped its origins as a streaming-only game for which broadcast numbers aren’t even available.
Granted, Barstool is a bigger brand than Campus Insiders ever was, but the Mountain West’s numerous dalliances with streaming options like CI, Facebook, and whomever is responsible for streaming Hawaii football to the mainland from year to year makes the “eyeballs” argument dubious at best.
In retrospect, given college football’s recent arc toward getting money by any means necessary (we see you, Texas and Oklahoma), we probably should’ve seen this coming at some point. That doesn’t make it any easier to see the Mountain West wholeheartedly embracing this thing, not when the bowl is likely to be as niche as possible on New Year’s Eve next to the College Football Playoff semifinals and when the early indication is that the game will be a self-congratulatory spectacle rather than anything that gives a damn about the MWC. Not even Barstool can compete with that.
If you plan to go ahead and watch, anyway, more power to you, I guess, but I’d contend that if the Arizona Bowl committee was so desperate for sponsorship that they felt compelled to partner with a brand possessing such bad publicity, then the bowl was probably better off being cut loose.