Wednesday, January 6, 2010
How To Fix The Bowls
30 years ago, when I was a small human, college bowl season was the most wonderful time of the year. I would get a large poster board, list all 15 bowl games (complete with team logos and stadium information), and hang it on my bedroom wall. I would then watch each and every game, filling in the final scores on my big board. New Year's Day was the crescendo. Four big games--Rose, Cotton, Orange and Sugar. Afterwards, I would be spent, but happy.
Today? Like most sports fans, I couldn't care any less about the bowls, save for the BCS National Championship game. Today we have 34 bowl games. One matters. 33 games that nobody cares about. And, beginning on December 19th, the bowls come at us thick and fast in no particular order of importance. The GMAC Bowl sandwiched between the Orange and BCS Title game? The Alamo Bowl AFTER New Year's Day? The Gator Bowl ON New Year's Day? Are they just TRYING to piss us off at this point?
Bonus points if you know where the Emerald Bowl, EagleBank Bowl or International Bowl are played. Bigger bonus points if you can name the teams that played in them. 34 bowl games means we have 68 of the 119 division one football teams being rewarded with postseason play. 60 percent of the teams go to a bowl game. If we were to invite the same percentage of teams to the NCAA postseason basketball tournament, it would go from a field of 64 to a field of 200! We are to the point where some teams exit their bowl game with a losing record. Why would a .500 team be invited to a bowl game? Why would a team that lost as many as it won deserve a reward?
The single worst term in sports today is "bowl eligible". What does that mean? That you went .500? It means even less now that teams don't have to have at least 6 wins over division one teams. That's right, you can schedule as many games as you can against The School For The Blind and those wins (if you can beat TSFTB) count toward being 'bowl eligible'. Simply ridiculous. If I were a coach or athletic director of a team that was 6-6, I would never, ever accept a bowl bid. It's humiliating.
HOW TO FIX IT
I present to you my five step program to fix the bowl games--to restore interest and credibility to college football's postseason:
Step One: No Bowls. 16 team college playoff. It will never happen.
Step Two: Since Step One will never happened, we cut the number of bowls from 34 to 15. In 1979, we had 15 bowls. Perfect. Not too many, but enough to make the schedule seem full. No trash teams. No .500 teams.
Step Three: Return to playing the games in order of importance. Bring back meaning and prestige to playing on New Year's Day. Don't play the PapaJohns.com Bowl after the Rose Bowl! Spare bowls early, big bowls late. Simple.
Step Four: Since the NCAA will ignore Steps One, Two and Three, let's at least eliminate all 6-6 teams. If you are 6-6, you are the epitome of mediocre. You have no business in the postseason. Go back to practice and work harder on becoming a winner who deserves something.
Step Five: Since the NCAA will ignore Steps One, Two, Three and Four, I introduce my most radical thought. If you are a 6-6 team and you are invited to a bowl game, you may accept the bid. However, if you lose your bowl game, you will not be eligible for a bowl game the following season, no matter what your record. It will make coaches and athletic directors think twice about rewarding mediocrity. Can you imagine the embarrassment of accepting a bowl bid at 6-6, losing that bowl, then going 12-0 the next season and not being able to play in a big BCS bowl?
I realize my plan has zero chance. It makes too much sense. I love college football, but my love is fading more and more each season. The NCAA is the single most screwed up entity in sports. The messy bowl system is just a small part of their problems.
The NCAA is actually considering adding a few more bowls. Ludicrous. How far are we from seeing 118 division one teams (not all 119--that would be silly) invited to a bowl? You laugh, but if the NCAA approves 5 more bowl games, we will be near 80 teams going to bowls. 80. Out of 119. Unreal. The NCAA has effectively taken all of the meaning and prestige out of playing in a bowl game. It means nothing.
It all falls in line with the trend in America these days. Reward the winners AND the losers. Everyone in the race gets a ribbon--the top three, the middle three, and the bottom three. It teaches nothing. No reason to try harder, little Jimmy who finished in 9th place--here's a ribbon! No reason to try harder, Texas A&M--you went .500, so here is a bowl bid!
Bear Bryant is rolling over in his grave. And my eyes are rolling into the back of my head as I try to stomach Idaho vs Bowling Green in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl.