Thursday, January 08, 2009

Good old days

Time to sound a little like an old fogey. Or is that fogie?

Back in the dark ages, maybe 30 years ago, the college football bowl system was still a little silly (What, no formal championship? It's picked by polls?) but at least it was ordered. On New Year's Day, the top four or five bowl games would be played during the course of the day. It was already a holiday, and America sat down to watch major portions of the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl (a latecomer to the party) and the Orange Bowl depending on which had the best matchup. And when then the final moment of the late-night Orange Bowl took place, the season was over. Period. The other bowl games, and there weren't that many of them, took place before Jan. 1. It was nice and neat, at least.

The situation is different now. Games go from before Christmas Day until well after New Year's. I usually don't know who is playing in a given game, but I do know that many of the games are greeted with empty seats. Supposedly, the secondary market for upper-deck seats for the Cincinnati-Virginia Tech Orange Bowl was $1.

There are still games on January 1, but only the Rose and Orange Bowls seem to matter even a little. And there are games after that. The University at Buffalo played on Jan. 3 in the International Bowl; it was thrilled to be there but it sure didn't seem like it was a good fit into the overall schedule.

Now, I'm modern enough to realize that there are certain marketing advantages to spreading our the biggest games over a period of time so they don't run into each other on television. Meanwhile, the season formally does end with the BCS championship, even though no one is particularly happy about the way that game is set up. (I have written before about the need for a plus-one system.)

Still, something seems to have been lost in the translation. New Year's Day is less than special now, and I defy anyone without a rooting interest to say when any of the bowl games will be played when asked a couple of weeks ahead of time.

As for the solution, let's set the first Monday night after the New Year as the date for the BCS championship game. We can work the others in before it, with at least a couple of good ones on Jan. 1.

In other words, there's no way the Outback Bowl, the granddaddy of all bowls named after steak houses, should be played at 11 a.m. Eastern on New Year's Day (a little early for the West Coast audience, thank you), and there's no way the GMAC Bowl should be the next-to-last game of the college football year.

Let's have the season build to a climax, rather than have bowl season be filled with stops and starts.

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