20 December 2009

Bowled over by Excess

The initial college football bowl games of the season have already been played. Thus, the deluge of 34 mostly meaningless matches has been unleashed. As a fan of Division 1-A college football, I must ask: WHY?!

I wonder if anyone else remembers when securing a bowl bid served as validation of a successful season. Am I the only one who still believes that if this nonsensical post-season arrangement will continue to exist, that at least it should be limited to fewer teams? A large number of this year’s bowl participants never even made a cameo appearance in any of the three most widely cited top 25 opinion polls. Since the expansion of the regular season to twelve games, teams with the same number of losses as wins annually qualify for bowl games. Some of those teams plus others with 7-5 records only achieved that modicum a success by defeating team from the Division 1-AA level.

The driving force behind the overstuffed schedule of irrelevant match-ups is conferences’ overblown views of their members. Conferences with automatic bids to Bowl Series Championship games delusionally believe that their fifth and sixth place teams deserve to play an extra game, usually against another distant also-ran from another major conference. Also pushing for the inflation of the bowl glut, the five non-automatic qualifying conferences are equally culpable. These five groups of defectors from Division 1-AA, remnants of formerly relevant conferences and long-time independents clamor for any nationally televised games, even their second and third place members. Sadly, in this era when even last place in children’s competitions merits a trophy, the once highly prized bowl game berth has degenerated into a de facto thirteenth game for more than half of teams in the top echelon of NCAA football.

Previous generations of fans of bowl-bound teams relished trips to bowls to touristic locations. People escaped wintry doldrums to ring in New Year’s Day in warm locales suited to entertaining visitors. Currently, the absurd array of bowl games includes such curiously undesirable destinations such as Boise, Detroit and Shreveport. Compounding this line-up of inappropriate vacation spots, a bowl game has been scheduled for Yankee Stadium after the 2010 season. What purpose would this serve other than to lure even more loud and tipsy spectators to pack Times Square further past the point of overflowing?

As the situation exists now, bowl games serve much less of a financial boon to either to bowls sites or participants. In some cases, universities actually lose money by sending their teams to post-season play. After the costs of transporting the players, coaches, support staff, marching band and university officials then paying for all those to stay at the location of the game for at least three days, little to none of the bowl payout remains. For fans of perennial top 25 programs, spending hundreds of dollars to travel and watch their underperforming teams play a glorified exhibition match before New Year’s Day often fails to motivate them to part with their money. Therefore, bowl committees deduct the value of hundreds, frequently thousands, of unsold tickets allotted to universities from the sum given to them for participating in the game.

Unfortunately, for the devotees of followers of the most popular amateur sport in the United States, we will have to settle for yet another year with three weeks of inconsequential contests concluded by one game purported to crown the national champion.


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