Monday, January 02, 2012

Going bowling

Could someone please tell me why we are in such a hurry to preserve the current bowl system? Does anyone think it actually works?

Right now there are about 30 or so bowls, depending on the year. Anyone who has won six games or more, which translates to a not-so-gaudy .500 record, is eligible to go. That leaves the calendar filled with a handful of good matchups, and some others that you might watch if you were sleepy on a Saturday afternoon in October and needed background noise for a nap.

Some of the universities involve lose money on accepting a bowl bid, since they are require the guarantee the purchase of a certain amount of tickets. That leads to some teams being more likely to get a "better" (translation: a bigger paycheck) bowl bid because they "travel well" (translation: more their fans will pack up and go).

And based on some of the minor games that I've glimpsed so far, the host cities don't seem too excited about the games either. There are acres of empty seats.

Yes, the current system does allow about 30 coaches and teams to win their last game of the season, which gets them a nice trophy in the lobby and a ring. And ESPN gets to show a couple of games a night for a two or three weeks; the outlet has even gone to the trouble of owning a few of the games. That's better programming than a poker game from a couple of years ago, at least.

Back in the Stone Age, known as my childhood, the college football season climaxed on Jan. 1 with a bunch of games throughout the day. It was sort of like the last day of the regular season in baseball in 2011 at times, as teams had to win games and then watch the scoreboard to see if they wound up number one. I'm not saying that was better than a playoff, because it wasn't. But it did have its moments. There were a few other games (Sun, Liberty, Cotton, Gator, Bluebonnet) in the week leading up to it, and that was that.

We've got to do better. Maybe we can.

I believe I've written here before about the merits of a "plus-one" bowl system. That's when you have four teams named to a national tournament. That creates semifinals and leads to a final, just like the current BCS title game. Yes, it would be tough to pick the four teams, but it would be fairer than choosing two. This year, I could live with LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford pretty easily.

Designate two of the current BCS bowl games each year for the semifinal. This year, the Fiesta Bowl could match LSU and Stanford, and the Sugar Bowl would have Alabama and Oklahoma State. Then the winners could play a week later in the Rose Bowl (although THE Rose Bowl would still be played on Jan. 1, because people need to do something after the parade). Rotate the sights among the BCS locations.

Oh, and cut out any bowl games that are played before Christmas. No exceptions. If college presidents say the student-athletes need time to prepare for finals in December, it's silly to have a football game on Dec. 20. Survival of the fittest can determine which bowls can make it when placed between Dec. 25 and Dec. 31. Might be a good economics lesson for the kids. Not to pick on the Beef O'Brady Bowl, but it probably wouldn't be missed by many if it exited.

That should lead to a more meaningful end to the college football season. Bowl games in themselves would be a nice reward for a good season. The semifinal games probably would make a ton of money.

I can't see a downside to any of it.

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