Has it really come to this, NCAA? Gone are the days of bowl games actually meaning something. Six wins, even with a losing record (cough, UCLA, cough) are apparently enough to justify tarnishing a tradition that used to be one of the delights in sports. What was so wrong about a small number of bowl games? Do we really need 35 of them?
The 2011 bowl season kicked off on Saturday with a few genuinely exciting games. Last-second field goals and exciting finishes were the theme of the weekend. Normally, that is exactly what I want out of a college football Saturday.
What I don’t want is Temple playing Wyoming in the Gildan’s New Mexico Bowl. In case you missed it, that was an actual bowl game that actually happened last weekend. I’m not kidding. THE NEW MEXICO BOWL. The only good thing about the state of New Mexico is it gets me one state closer to the superior ski slopes of Colorado. Anyone that has watched an episode of Breaking Bad realizes how depressing New Mexico really is. I have nothing against the nice people of New Mexico, but your state does not deserve a college football bowl game. You probably had absolutely nothing to do with the New Mexico Bowl, but I have decided to use your bowl game to highlight what has gone wrong with the bowl system.
Thirteen bowl games have been added since 2001. Thirteen. When you look at who is behind these additions, you will see once famous company behind most of them… the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, or ESPN. The need for programming has driven the Worldwide Leader to throw enormously underwhelming matchups in our face and ruin the sanctity of the bowl season. Instead of being content with the NBA, NFL, or NHL right now, ESPN feels that we need to spend our Tuesday night watching the likes of Florida International and Marshall in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. Um, no thanks. Judging by the size of the crowd at Tropicana Field that I saw on SportsCenter that night, many others shared that feeling.
One has to wonder why these schools agree to play in some of these ultimately meaningless games. If celebrating a mediocre season in a mediocre conference is why the schools want to participate in these pitiful bowls, surely some kind of on-campus parade would suffice. It would undoubtedly be cheaper for the schools.
As fans of Texas A&M, we would probably agree that no one is excited about playing Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston. After such a disappointing season, the only real benefit I see in playing this game is the extra practice time it affords our young players. This game doesn’t push my needle. At all.
This is where I begin to sound like an old man. The current bowl system, which awards a postseason game to more than half of the teams in the top division of college football, is rewarding mediocrity. Everyone gets a trophy! Your team beat up on non-conference creampuff teams, and then won 3 out of 9 conference games? Congratulations! You get to go to Shreveport, Louisiana and celebrate your season! Give me a break. Bowls should be for good teams. As in, ranked teams.
Don’t get me wrong – the bowl system is screwed up, and may not be long for this world. The clamoring for a playoff system is getting louder every day (look out BCS, Congress is coming for you!). But all I ask for is a simple trimming of the fat. No one enjoys these new bowls played by teams no one cares about in front of a few thousand fans. The system of determining the national champion may be flawed, but so too is ESPN’s presence in the bowl system. If we are going to introduce a “plus one” format for the national championship game, then let’s also rid ourselves of these spare bowl games. No more Gildan’s New Mexico Bowl, no more R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, no more Meineke Car Care Bowl. The college football bowl season used to be special – is it too much to ask to keep it that way?