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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Who Really Cares About Most College Bowl Games?

The answer is almost no one.

They are not scarce any more.

Home televisions are so good that man caves offer better shots of the game in a better climate and with more conveniences than the stadiums themselves.

And they are cheaper.

Note that I said "most," because there will be great interest in the "Final Four" concept that the NCAA conjured up to crown a national champion.  Those games could be compelling, although you could bet that Baylor and TCU fans might summon the mother of Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor to put a spell on the whole setup (apparently the player attributed his drought of goals to his witch doctor mother's having cast a spell on him).

So those who care are coaches and athletic directors who can tell recruits and their superiors "hey, we qualified for a bowl game."  The people in the program get to take a trip, as do their parents and relatives (although pity the siblings who get stuffed into airplanes and hotel rooms and get dragged along to functions when they'd rather be watching Netflix, playing on the PlayStation 2 or hanging out with their own friends).  The parents get to go to work and talk about the bowl, the trip, the program, their recruited athlete and perhaps not about the downside -- the broken promises from self-aggrandizing coaching staffs, the push to play while injured and perhaps the less-than-optimal class schedules that don't always provide a young man with an opportunity for a meaningful career, especially if the kid plays at a school that gives academic credit for playing the sport (and, some apparently do).

Sorry to be a post-holiday Grinch, so to speak, but the channels are littered with games that don't mean anything and that aren't interesting, precisely because there are way too many of them.  The FBS system rewards teams for play the way youth athletic programs reward eight year-olds -- everyone seemingly gets the same trophy, whether you are a difference maker or not.

And few, outside those connected with the programs in a significant way, care about almost every bowl game save a precious handful.  That should tell the NCAA and its member school something.  The irony is that these academic institutions don't learn too good, I mean well, because most football programs -- about 80% of them -- lose money.  So why should the NCAA care if these bowl games, an opiate for some small masses, break even or not -- it's the sponsors who pay, not the schools.  But really?  What team should want to go to a bowl game if they have finished 6-6?

Then again, with all of the complicated rules, the loopholes, the apparent bending of them and the inconsistent enforcement of them, perhaps if you finish 6-6 you should be celebrated because you tried to do it the right way -- running an amateur program where most kids graduate and with degrees other than in something like resort maintenance.

I haven't watched a bowl outside of those with implications for decades now, and I do not think that habit will change.  Not with the English Premiership taking root (where each game seems to mean something), not with the entertainment value of basketball (you actually can see the players and the ball).  

This bowl system is a dinosaur.

Then again, with the increasing prevalence of concussions and life-long injuries. . . so might be football.  It's on top now, but sometimes that's when an institution is at its most vulnerable.  

Bowl games, though, should reward some form of excellence.

Right now, they do not.


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