ST. PETERSBURG, FL - DECEMBER 20: Wide receiver Aaron Dobson #3 of the Marshall Thundering runs 39 yards with a pass in the fourth quarter for a touchdown against the Florida International University Panthers December 20, 2011 in the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Marshall won 20 - 10. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Bowl games are wonderful, but there are too many of them. And a potential 2014 eligibility change could be one more step along the way to a superior postseason.
College football's postseason is about to change. While the current BCS agreement expires after next year, with a one-round playoff tacked on to the end of bowl season looking like the most likely adjustment, the current overall bowl arrangement is also up for a change. And, for once, it could actually mean fewer bowls, not more:
That means no more .500 teams being rewarded with bowl trips, and definitely no more teams with losing records in the postseason. if this had been the rule for 2011-2012, the following teams would've no longer been eligible: the Arizona St. Sun Devils, Florida Gators, Illinois Fighting Illini, Iowa St. Cyclones, Marshall Thundering Herd, Mississippi St. Bulldogs, Northwestern Wildcats, Ohio St. Buckeyes, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Texas A&M Aggies, UCLA Bruins, Vanderbilt Commodores, and Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
That's 14 teams, which means seven bowl games lopped off right away. Or six bowls, with a spot freed up for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, who did win seven games and were still not invited. Either way, we'd be below 30 bowl games for the first time since 2005.
That's six (or seven) battalions of neon-blazered bowl scouts who'll have to obtain free passes to totally unrelated games without aid of bowl game affiliation. It would mean leaving only 58 or 56 spots for bowl-eligible teams, which would actually be fewer than half the teams in the nation again.
Not really anything new. Bowls have arrived and left literally since the bowl system began, but it would be a rage change to drop multiple games without replacing them. Dozens of bowls have just up and stopped, including games that began in the '20s and '30s and two that were first played within the last six years. So how to decide which six (or seven) to scrap?
If we went by 2011 attendance, we'd be out the following:
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Attendance 29,878
BBVA Compass Bowl: Attendance 29,726
Idaho Potato Bowl: Attendance 28,076
New Mexico Bowl: Attendance 25,762
Military Bowl: Attendance 25,042
Poinsettia Bowl: Attendance 24,607
Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl: Attendance 20,072
Or TV ratings, which can't be fudged by the games themselves:
Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl: 1.52
Military Bowl: 1.5
BBVA Compass Bowl: 1.49
Hawaii Bowl: 1.44
Armed Forces Bowl: 1.43
GoDaddy Bowl: 1.24
The counters, of course, would come from (A) hardcore football fans ("But the Armed Forces Bowl was great!") and (B) those who profit from the bowl system ("What about the seven bowl games that provided the most smiles to senior student-athletes? I'd like to see your math come up with that list," along with, "But the city of _____'s economy depends on that bowl game."). To these, we'd say, (A) it was, but hang on a second, and (B) why not have 60 bowl games, with two more on the way to account for South Alabama, UMass, UT-San Antonio and Texas State?
Regarding MORE FOOTBALL. The end game here is hopefully a Division I-A playoff supplemented by bowl games run by conferences, not bowl committees. We remember bowl games that end in spectacular fashion, not necessarily bowl games that are fiercely contested for 60 minutes. Every playoff game would mean something to every player on the field. If we think this applies to bowl games, we are among the many billions of people who did not watch the Compass Bowl.
Also, yes, bowl games benefit the communities in which they're played. Schools lose money on bowls, but cities do very well. However, not sure why we'd assume any city deserves the economic gain associated with an Alabama game more than Tuscaloosa does.