Thursday, December 2, 2010

There Are Too Many Bowl Games

The 2010-2011 bowl season has been expanded from last seasons's 34 games to 35 postseason matchups. That means 70 of 120 FBS teams will be rewarded with a postseason game. This begs the question of whether there will be 70 teams bowl eligible by the end of the regular season each year. Take into account that last year 68 of the 71 bowl eligible teams went to bowls. Notre Dame (declined to play) and Sun Belt teams Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6) and Louisiana-Monroe (6-6) were the three teams that got left out. With 70 postseason slots, it is almost guaranteed every .500 team in the FBS gets to go bowling and almost none will by turned away. Should programs be rewarded for average fall campaigns? Keep in mind many of these programs get one of their wins by scheduling an FCS team every year.
Between the 2009-2010 bowl season and the current college football season, one bowl disappeared and two new ones were selected from the four new proposals. The International Bowl, held for four years in Toronto was doomed to fail: American citizens needed to get passports to attend the game, and Toronto is just not a sexy destination for early January. Local interest in the game was low considering Canadian football is quite different than American football. Of the four proposed bowls, the TicketCity Bowl and the Pinstripe Bowl got selected as the two new additions to the college football postseason. The TicketCity Bowl will be played at the Cotton Bowl since the Cotton Bowl Classic decided to move to Cowboys Stadium. It sure makes a whole lot of sense to not play the Cotton Bowl at the Cotton Bowl. The New York Yankees-sponsored Pinstripe Bowl will be played inside of Yankee Stadium. Will anybody other than diehard fans want to watch the Big East #4 team play the Big 12 #7 team December 30th in frigid conditions?
A common theme brought up and addressed during the lower profile college bowl games is: why does this game matter? The ESPN announcers would rebut by saying that to the players playing in the lower tier bowls, it means everything. Sure that is true, but it does still not address why a postseason matchup between the MAC #4 team and the C-USA #6 team matters in the greater scheme of things. The truth of the matter is that ESPN now holds the television rights to almost every single bowl game. They will hype anything just to get good Nielson ratings.
Also keep in mind that hosting a bowl game is a very profitable venture, even when the game doesn’t fill a stadium or half of a stadium. The organizations that stage bowl games profit well between selling sponsorships, merchandise licensing, promotions, forcing universities to buy up tickets, and generating big influxes to local economies. Out of 34 bowl games last year, only 8 had capacity crowds. The Alamo Bowl was about 240 short of capacity, so we could be generous and say 9 bowls had capacity crowds. But still, 9 out of 34 is 26.4%. Also note that three of those capacity crowds were BCS games. That’s right; two BCS games were partially empty. Fans are not likely to travel long and far with the current state of the economy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love college football and will probably end up watching every bowl game. I just disagree with rewarding mediocrity and allowing money and power to spoil the pageantry of college football.

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