BCS disrupts Cotton Bowl tradition

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Now Wait Just a Cotton-pickin' Minute! Can someone give some love to the Cotton Bowl, and to college football tradition in general? The outrage that is the BCS is the fact that, while not giving us a playoff, which is at one end of the spectrum, the BCS also fails to satisfy college football traditionalists at the other end, those who grew up when there were four and only four bowl games that really mattered: The Orange, the Sugar, the Rose, and yes, the Cotton Bowl. If you're a college graduate and a college football fan, you can remember at least a few New Year's Days during your childhood when the Cotton Bowl was a big deal, the "Puff Daddy" of all bowl games, if you'll pardon that expression. Seeing the big white puff at the 50-yard line in the middle of the two-decked, white-and-blue seated football cathedral in Dallas, with an early afternoon (East and Central time zones) or late-morning (Mountain and Pacific time zones) kickoff on CBS, gave you the first classic taste of New Year's Day. Yes, before the classic mid-afternoon kickoff of the Rose Bowl on NBC (and later, ABC), with a first half in sunshine and a second half played in dramatic dusk; before the often sticky and steamy environs of a nighttime sweatfest in the tropical Orange Bowl on NBC; and before the prime-time, bright-light, big-stage glare of the Superdome for the Sugar Bowl on ABC, the first real football of New Year's Day was the Cotton Bowl on Black Rock. The Fiesta Bowl wasn't born until the 1970s, for the younger members of this audience. The Fiesta Bowl wasn't a New Year's bowl until 1982, when and Curt Warner beat and Southern Cal. The Fiesta Bowl didn't become a big-time bowl for grown-ups until beat Miami in 1987. Until then, the Cotton Bowl was a big deal, and a great spectacle. It was the one true day game on New Year's Day, the Showdown in the Southwest that occupied a special place in the nation's football consciousness. THEN came the Granddaddy in the golden, late light. THEN came the Orange Bowl in a South Beach night. THEN came the Sugar Bowl in the big dome in the Big Easy. The Cotton Bowl, though, came FIRST. Before the two outdoor Super Bowl sites on the coasts with palm trees, and before the modern, new indoor Super Bowl site, there was the old-time stadium in Texas, the Wrigley Field of college football and a national treasure. After the Tournament of Roses parade ended in a time long, long ago, the nation would switch its attention from the floats and flowers to football, as the Cotton Bowl would lead off the Big Four on New Year's Day. There was a time when there weren't lower-tier bowl games played at 11 a.m. Eastern/8 a.m. Pacific on New Year's Day Morning. There was a time when New Year's Day was about big games and ONLY big games, instead of a glut of seven or eight contests, four of which were low-profile and three of which - by virtue of NOT being the national title game in the devaluing, diluted world of the BCS - had less than a sellout crowd, less than the substantial national buzz they had. This year, the Sugar Bowl will be unimportant for anyone outside of Athens, Georgia. Why? Because of the BCS, which lacks a playoff and thereby reduces the value of the bowls, and of the very bowl system that TRADITIONALISTS claim to love. The BCS tries to get a national champion without deciding a national champion in the right way. Either have all the old bowl tie-ins, and have the Sugar and Orange Bowls on dueling networks on New Year's Night, deciding a title in a breathless, messy way ... or have the spread-out bowls and decide the champ in a proper way, with semifinals and a title game. But don't try to decide a national champion, devalue the other great bowl games (and the lower-tier bowl games, too!), and have both the controversy and a lack of tradition at the same time. Either have all the tradition and controversy in one package, or have no tradition and no controversy in another separate package. But please-don't destroy the tradition while failing to eliminate controversy! That's what the BCS does, and that's why the lack of a great Cotton Bowl is a profound loss to anyone who loves college football. There is no place left for tradition in college football. Nothing really honors tradition in this sport anymore. The Cotton Bowl must be revived, rescued and brought back to prominence, people! To anyone and everyone who holds a position of power in college football, this bowl game must regain its 1:45 Eastern time kickoff on New Year's Day. This game must reclaim its place as a big-time bowl game that teams are particularly honored to play in. This bowl must once again become a "destination game," an "achievement game," a reward for a quality season. If anyone in the state of - anyone who already does good work for the needy; I don't want football to be considered more valuable than helping the less fortunate during this holiday season - has extra spare time, extra time to use on a project, he or she could agitate to get the Cotton Bowl back to prominence. Texas holds a unique and special place in American cultural mythology. The identity of the cowboy is a larger than life figure on the American landscape. Why else is the Marlboro Man an advertising icon in American history? Why did the Dallas Cowboys, love or hate and for better or worse, become the most recognized team in the nation's most popular sport, professional football? When you consider the Rose and Orange Bowls, the great bowl games played in the other two talent-rich states in the country (California and Florida), you have games that are sexy-games played in states where the palm trees are tall, the women are fast, and the athletic talent is awesomely flashy. and Florida, within the American national narrative, are places that excite and exhilarate, places that give Americans a quick burst of energy and thrills. Texas has an equally impressive and important place in The Great American Story, but for obviously different reasons. Texas isn't sexy or flashy; no, Texas is better than that. Texas is about manhood. It's everything that's good about the South, only with the presence of the cowboy to make the image complete. The American South is by far the best college football region in the country, with the best, most passionate fans and the most colorful, compelling coaches (Bear Bryant in the olden days, Steve Spurrier in our time), but if one state projects a classic American image of manliness to the widest possible cross-section of people, it's the Lone Star State-Texas. Texas is about rugged individualism. Texas is about wide-open spaces and the little town in the middle of nowhere-JUNCTION-that actually represented the beginning of the making of Bear Bryant's legend. Texas is the state where high school football is larger than life. is the state where college football is larger than life, but in Texas, where high school football is the undisputed king, young boys-before going off to college (in , perhaps, or elsewhere in the SEC if Austin says "no")-face the manliness of the culture of football in a unique and central way. For better or worse, this culture gives Texas a competitive and hard-edged quality that makes football games played in the state a little more special than anywhere else. Why does Dallas host a Thanksgiving Day NFL game these days? Wasn't Detroit enough? NO! America had to have the mythic presence of Tom Landry's Cowboys on Thanksgiving afternoon-right in the middle of the nation's big meal. The Detroit Lions game would finish up in mid-afternoon-early afternoon west of the Rockies-enabling football to cleanly precede turkey. But no-let's add the Cowboys, too, during the meals eaten in Denver and LA and Seattle! I know-the JFK assassination on 11/22/1963 was the direct impetus for the game, but still, the institution of the Dallas game on Thanksgiving afternoon/evening does make one pause and realize how Texas has a particular place in the American football imagination. The presence of the Cotton Bowl, then, along with Landry's "America's Team" Cowboys over nearly three decades, is what anchored Texas' presence as an all-time All-American football state, with national name recognition. As our society races into the 21st Century, tradition becomes less honored and respected. Old-fashioned values become more scarce and less recognized. Time-honored ways of doing things fall by the wayside in a race for cash. The Bull Crap Series is reflective of all this-the folks in Texas would tell you so, I'm sure. As a native of Phoenix, I value and appreciate what the Fiesta Bowl has done for the local economy and the city's image. Yet, I'm steamed that this had to come at the expense of a great American tradition: the Cotton Bowl as a prestigious early-afternoon bowl game on New Year's Day. With the Rose Bowl now officially and genuinely bereft of its Big Ten-Pac 10 lock-in, given the shameless politicking that once again polluted the BCS, there are no real traditions left in college football. One can hope, though, that if the Rose Bowl can at least remain a big game with new matchups of teams and conferences, the Cotton Bowl-in this post-Southwest Conference era-can regain its status as a big game. Some ideas for the college football power brokers to consider-Mike Tranghese, John Swofford and others, please listen: Make the Cotton Bowl the highest-paying non-BCS bowl, with payouts at least a few million dollars more than the next highest-paying non-BCS bowl. Give the game its old midday time slot, and-in the three remaining years of the current BCS contract, which runs through the 2005 season and, therefore, through the New Year's bowls of January 2006-give the bowl a strong element of appeal. Here's how the Cotton Bowl can become great again: make the Cotton Bowl a drawing card by making it a battle of the two teams most deserving of a BCS bowl, but who got outed because of either upsets or dubious political/financial/television decisions. This year's Cotton Bowl, then, would be-without intra-conference or season-repeat matchups... NOTRE DAME AND TEXAS. SOUNDS LIKE A COTTON BOWL CLASSIC TO ME, DUNNIT? (If had not played Texas during the Big XII season, they'd replace the Irish... but not with a "no-rematch" provision.) That would fill a heckuva lotta seats, be awesome TV, and generate revenue up the wazzoo. It would be a rematch of classic Cotton Bowls from the past, in which the Irish and Longhorns both won a national title at the other's expense-Texas over the Irish in the 1970 game, and in the 1978 staging of the game (in 1971, knocked off No. 1 Texas in a rematch of the previous year's contest). That would be a game worthy of New Year's Day, with the electricity, buzz, stature and spectacle befitting this unfairly-demoted American college football classic. Please-tell the presidents of the network sports broadcasting departments. Please tell the BCS honchos. Please tell people in the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. Please pass this along to big-heeled people with leverage who could pony up the dough to make the Cotton Bowl a big Cotton-pickin' deal once again! The Cotton Bowl and the state of Texas-they occupy a large place in the life of the sport of college football, and they both convey images and feelings that resonate with the sport's fans and, moreover, the sense of tradition that makes any American sport so great. Please-bring the Cotton Bowl back to what it was. Please. This loss of tradition in Dallas (along with what's going on in Pasadena) is really, really sad and depressing. Wait just a Cotton-pickin' minute here! Something needs to be done!

Tagged: Penn State, Bowling Green, California, Alabama, Notre Dame, Kansas State, Texas

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