“Bowling” For Dollars

Posted: December 18, 2010 in NCAA Football
Tags: , , , ,

Remember when college football capped off its season with an exciting slate of games on New Year’s Day?  For the diehard college football fan, there was almost no time to even take a bathroom break as you flipped between the overlapping games.  The day started at around 11:00am and ended about 12 hours later when the clock struck zero in the nighttime games.  The bowl games were something to look forward to…and with good reason.  For the most part, only the top teams were afforded the opportunity to advance to a bowl game.

Nowadays, there are 35 bowl games, meaning that 70 of the 120 Division 1 schools finish their season with a bowl game.  Needless to say, the quality of the bowl games has been greatly diminished as mediocre teams are rewarded with the chance to play in them.  All it takes now to be eligible is a 6-6 record.  Ironically, the same record that makes schools bowl-eligible is also one that often times causes coaches to be fired, sometimes even before the bowl game takes place.

This past week, when Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) proposed bankrolling a playoff system for college football, he was immediately dismissed by the head shill for the BCS, Bill Hancock.  According to Hancock… College football is so popular today, because we have a great regular season and because we have an important bowl tradition that provides a meaningful experience for the students and fans — all of which would be at risk if this concept were implemented.”

Hancock added…

“Given how much support our current system has among university presidents, athletics directors, coaches and athletes, I don’t think any amount of financial inducement will make people abandon the BCS.”

It’s hard to imagine how Hancock was able to keep a straight face while making these preposterous statements, since the bowl games and the BCS are nothing more than money-making opportunities.  How else do you explain 58% of all Division 1 schools ending their season with a bowl game?

Of the 70 teams invited to a bowl game this year, a good percentage of them finished the season with an unimpressive record:

  • 6 wins – 20%
  • 7 wins – 26%
  • 8 wins – 14%
  • 9 wins – 11%
  • 10+ wins – 29%

As I watch the bowl games this year with my 8-year old son, I will look back and long for the way that things used to be when I was his age.  That year, there were only 12 bowl games, and each one had meaning.  While there were a few records that were less than stellar, the percentages overwhelmingly show the difference in the quality of teams that were invited to bowl games:

  • 6 wins – 0%
  • 7 wins – 8%
  • 8 wins – 17%
  • 9 wins – 38%
  • 10+ wins – 38%

Anyone who thinks that the bowl games are driven by something other than money should take note of the names of each game:

  • 2 bowl games (New Mexico Bowl and Texas Bowl) have no sponsor
  • 21 bowl games feature the sponsor name in the title
  • 12 bowl games have no other name besides that of the sponsor

Bill Hancock of the BCS was either blatantly lying when he said… College football is so popular today because we have a great regular season and because we have an important bowl tradition that provides a meaningful experience for the students and fans” or he is so delusional that he believes his own rhetoric.

If bowl tradition actually meant something to the BCS or NCAA, then we wouldn’t be forced to suffer through watching mediocre teams play in bowl games that are designed more for sponsors to get their message across than for recognition of an outstanding season.

While few will argue that this year’s two most deserving teams to play in the championship game (under the current system) are facing each other, who knows if either one would be crowned champion if a playoff system existed?  I, for one, applaud Mark Cuban and his determination to fix a system that is badly broken.

When there were only 12 bowl games, we still may not have found a true champion, but at least college football fans ended the season with entertaining games featuring good teams, and the bowl games didn’t drag out until January 10th.

Sometimes, less is more.  In the case of college football bowl games, this is definitely the case.

Hopefully, Mark Cuban will dangle enough money in front of the NCAA to entice them into giving the people what they want…and do away with the endless array of meaningless, sponsor-driven bowl games.

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