The prospect of as many as five teams with 5-7 records playing in the postseason over the next month moves conference executives to urge the NCAA to decimate games diluting the value of bowls.
The NCAA football oversight committee meets this week. Some of its members want it to address the proliferation of bowls outpacing the number of deserving teams. Stopping the expansion of the made-for-television events and even subtracting bowls figure as ideas discussed.
“If we add more bowls next year, where are we going to find 84, 86, 88 eligible teams?” asks the aptly named Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 Commissioner. “Having bowls go dark may be the way to slow the process down. There are a lot of people that don’t even like 6-6, much less 5-7. There are people who absolutely want bowls to go dark.”
The NCAA currently gives its imprimatur to 41 bowls. But the FBS contains just 128 teams to fill those 80 spots (two teams play twice because of the playoff), meaning that rewarding schools without winning records with a bowl berth figures as an inevitability in a watered-down system. Whereas 62.5 percent of NFL teams miss the posteseason, 62.5 percent of FBS teams play in bowl games. Less than 20 percent of NCAA Division 1 basketball teams compete in the tournament.
The Big Ten’s Nebraska and the SEC’s Missouri, immersed in controversy this season after the players went on strike, could both go bowling despite 5-7 records. This year promises more losing teams winning bowl bids than the previous decade witnessed.
Bowl season kicks off on December 19 with the Celebration Bowl, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, and three other similarly forgettable contests. One city serves as the bowl capital of America. Orlando stages four games: the Citrus Bowl, the Cure Bowl, the Russell Athletic Bowl, and the TaxSlayer Bowl. The Motor City hosts the Quick Lane Bowl because, although traveling to freezing Detroit three days after Christmas may sound appealing to but a few thousand people in a nation of 318 million, degenerate gamblers need something to watch on the not-quite Christmas/not-yet New Year’s Eve date of December 28. If Detroit lacks sex appeal as a destination for traveling sports fans, then Nassau, Bahamas suffers from the opposite problem: a magnet for tourists but not a Mecca for football fans. The Caribbean country’s Thomas Robinson Stadium seats a mere 15,000. But since many Americans prefer spending Christmas eve with their television sets than with family members, the games must go on and on and on.
USA Today reported last year that while the aforementioned Camellia Bowl drew barely 20,000 fans to Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl, more than a million fans watched on ESPN. The advertisers keep paying the networks, the networks keep paying the bowls, and the bowls keep paying the schools. The 78 schools bowling in the next month or so split, rather unequally, a pot in excess of $300 million.
Half of the bowls played this season originated after the turn of the millennium. How did our 20th century forebears survive without the Belk Bowl or Foster Farms Bowl? The answer remains lost to history. After next season, fans may wonder how they lasted without the Melbourne Bowl, Austin Bowl, and Medal of Honor Bowl. The NCAA approved the addition of the three postseason games for 2016.
“I didn’t love 6-6 teams being allowed to go to a bowl let alone 5-7,” divulges Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.“I’d prefer less bowls and at a minimum a 6-6 record to get in.”
A guy who dislikes 5-7 bowl teams surely despises 4-8 schools invited to postseason play. But a likely future sees bowl invitations sent to all but the bottom third of FBS teams because the NCAA keeps adding bowls. Like money, apples, and widgets, bowls in abundance means bowls depreciating. The short-sighted NCAA looks to squeeze more revenue from the pigskin. Making more bowls, rather than making bowls more special, appears as the strategy. The stadium box office feels the effects of bowl inflation. But the idiot box still attracts enough idiots to justify the Celebration Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and other trophies-for-everybody, postseason consolation prizes for programs with no businesses playing in the postseason save for TV business. Curse the four-letter word ESPN as much as the NCAA.
Forty bowls make dollars. Do the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, and AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl really make sense?