Bowl game not standard of excellence

Bowl game not standard of excellence

Published Dec. 13, 2010 12:00 a.m. ET

There are far too many bowl games.

I say this not because many bowl games have silly-sounding sponsors and feature bad, meaningless matchups between mediocre teams, which make our eyes glaze over. No. I love that part. Seriously. I’ll watch any college football bowl game you got. Pass the dip.

But then, that’s me. I’ve got a sickness.

No, there are far, far too many because I’m getting tired of hearing TV announcers tell us how these coaches are such geniuses for getting their teams into bowl games.


Really? And yet here it comes again. We’re about to be inundated with numbers about so many straight bowl appearances or wins – but what does all that really mean these days?

Not as much as they’re making it out to. Too many bowl games waters down our definition of success.

Look, I have never coached a football team to a winning season. So I’m not going to knock the alchemy it takes to get 85 guys on the same page. Likewise, I’m not looking to take away anyone’s holiday cheer – dozens of teams will make lifetime memories, and half of them will end their seasons with fingers in the air. And great. Good for them. Dump the Gatorade.

There are some programs for which a bowl bid is a truly miraculous thing. And I’m with them. Pass the dip.

But let’s be honest here. A bowl bid is not the achievement it once was. It just isn’t. And it’s the number of bowl games that has done this – not some keyboard-wielding Grinch.

Fifty-eight percent of FBS teams were invited to bowl games this season. You know – congratulations for being on just the right side of average.

And yet we keep measuring these guys on the wrong curve, against 1980s standards. The nine-win season (out of 13 or more games now, not 11) and bowl bid (you know, finishing .500 or above) are still end-all, be-all marks of success. Despite being infinitely more easy to achieve these days.

There are now 35 bowl games, which is ridiculous. And again, I love bowl games. I’ll watch any you’ve got. (Pass the dip.) But, at some point, it just gets silly. And that point is now.

Especially if we’re to be hit over the head with the notion that a bowl bid is, in itself, a sign of some coach’s success. Especially if we’re told the guy coaching now is better than his 1970s predecessor, simply because that old guy back then never made a Meineke Car Care Bowl.

(The greatest-named bowl of them all was, of course, the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl. Sadly, that title is no longer with us. Perhaps so much money was made off this sponsorship tie-in that Mr. Poulan took a well-deserved early retirement.)

In the past 10 years, School X (coached by that genius, Coach X) has gone to more bowls than at any other time in its previous 100-year history. Well, duh. Unless it’s a traditional power, it better have.

Seventy schools go to bowls each year. If you aren’t one of them, you’re in the distinct minority. If you aren’t one of them, what the heck are you doing? (Let’s see, schedule three nonconference patsies … and if you can’t get three wins in your conference every couple of years, it’s time to look into selling insurance.)

What’s that Chris Rock quote about wanting credit for doing what you’re supposed to do?

Bowl participation used to be an exclusive fraternity. It used to be a very big deal. Now?

Now, it’s the equivalent of making the NIT.

Back in March, many of us – myself included – raised heck because the NCAA floated the idea of expanding the men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams. It was silly, of course. But several high-profile basketball coaches were all for it. The basketball coaches wanted – well, they wanted what their football counterparts already have.

They wanted a watered-down benchmark to point to, to say they’d had a good season. They wanted inflation.

Who can blame them?

Brace yourselves. Here come those numbers again.

But I ask you this: Let’s not compare eras on bowl bids. Let’s not bestow genius status with inflated numbers. Let’s not ask for credit for something you’re supposed to do.

Congratulations. You could have been one of the just 50 out of 120 teams that didn’t go to a bowl.

Yes, it’s a golden age for your program. And everyone else’s. We are in an era in which there are plenty of bowl games to go around.