Time to do away with mediocrity in bowl games

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 5:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 5:48 p.m.

For years I've been told bowl season is what it is and it doesn't matter whether or not you and I want to watch two 6-6 teams play because it's about the players and the communities where those bowls take place.

And so we get the Meineke Car Care Bowl and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and being in a bowl game feels about like getting the receipt that says you saved $2.13 on your $110 grocery bill.

But according to CBSSports.com writer Brett McMurphy, that could be changing. He talked to bowl officials, athletic directors and conference commissioners who said there is “strong support” to require teams to win seven games to be bowl eligible starting in 2014.

If the movement continues to grow and the presidents vote for it, the landscape of college football could be drastically different in two years. Because by then, we could very well have a Plus-One system in place as well.

Ah, the Revolution continues.

And, yes, it was OK to shudder a little when you realized Florida would not have been bowl-eligible in 2011 under this system.

In an effort to place as many teams as possible in bowl games, the conferences have over-extended themselves and forced schools to pay bonuses to coaches just before or after they fire them. And ESPN has been a willing partner in the perversion of the bowl system, owning several of the bowls and televising almost all of them.

The result has been sagging attendance and low ratings. It's not that big a deal to go to a bowl game when you've spent the fall watching your team slog through a 6-6 season.

Let's see, Martha, I've checked Expedia and the trip will cost us about $3,200 plus the cost of the game tickets to see our boys play Northern Iowa. Funny thing, we're playing them next year for Homecoming.

If you're as old as I am, you probably have trouble sleeping, but that's not the point. You probably remember the days when going to a bowl game really meant something. Gosh, since the day I was born, Florida has had 11 teams with .500 records or better that did not make bowl trips (not counting the ones excluded for NCAA probation).

In Steve Spurrier's sophomore season in 1964, the mighty Gators beat LSU, Miami and Auburn, and their three losses were by a combined 19 points.

The reward?

No bowl for you!

That was before the day when it became the right of any team that could manage to pull itself up to the mediocre level to play in a bowl game. The players enjoy the perks, the coaches collect the bonuses and the sponsors convince themselves the exposure is worth the checks they write.

But it seems as if there has been a lot more mediocrity of late. In the last two years, there have been 27 teams who went 6-6 (or in UCLA's case 6-7) who played in bowl games. You could hear the channels flipping across the America.

Some of the crowds were downright embarrassing. A half-dozen of them had “announced” crowds of fewer than 30,000. And those figures included bands, cheerleaders, ESPN crews and people loitering within 100 yards of the stadiums.

There is no doubt as one source told McMurphy, that we're at the point of “fan fatigue.” The bowl games are still fun for the players, still good for the communities, and coaches still get extra practices to get ready for next season. But in the end, are they good for college football?

Any movement to reduce the bowls will meet plenty of resistance. But perhaps, for once, we'll see college football do something for the fans when the next BCS cycle kicks in.

It could be the most exciting bowl season we've had in a long time.

Just think of all the 7-5 teams who will pop buttons because they're playing in bowl games.

Oh, there were only 15 of those this bowl season.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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