Bowl Season Silliness

This winter, 39 college football bowl games have invited 78 teams to play in their stadiums. Sounds great, right? But that’s way too many – especially when most bowls can’t fill the seats, and the teams lose money. So why do this? 

The people who run all 39 college football bowl games recently picked the 78 teams they want to showcase this holiday season – even though there are only 130 teams to choose from. In other words, they have to dip into the bottom half of teams to fill the bowls.  

What used to be a great honor 50 years ago, when there were only 10 bowl games for 20 teams, is now just another game on the schedule for every program that can still field a mildly competitive team. 

Contrary to popular belief, most bowl teams lose big money on these trips, because the bowls require them to pay for thousands of tickets their fans don’t want to buy. 

The long list of bowls includes many with unwieldy names like the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, the Academy Sports Plus Outdoors Texas Bowl, and the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl. 

Here’s a tip: If they need more than one word before “bowl,” it’s not a very good one. 

My personal favorite, the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, is named for a fictional pirate. Or a bunch of bad-ass mowers. I’m not sure.  

The DXL Frisco Bowl is naturally located in – you guessed it – Frisco, Texas. 

The Belk Bowl sounds like the large plastic vessel we hurry to grab when our three-year old son has the stomach flu. 

“Need to belk, boy? Quick — grab the bowl!”

The AutoNation Cure Bowl invited two teams from Louisiana to travel to Orlando, while the New Orleans Bowl invited teams from Tennessee and North Carolina to travel to, yes, Louisiana. I don’t get it, either.  

Why go to all this trouble, when so many fans and players just don’t care? Here’s a hint: Of the 40 post-season games, 32 of them – 80-percent – are broadcast by ESPN. Guess who loves this crazy system? 

Still, you might be interested to know Western Michigan will travel to Boise to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. But, if Idaho’s potatoes really werethat famous, would you have to call it that? Whatever. I think I know what those players will be eating at the official banquet.  

Eastern Michigan University’s 7-5 record earned the Eagles an invitation to play in the Raycom Media Camillia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. That might not sound like much, but that’s Eastern’s second bowl invitation in three years – after a three-decade drought. Kudos. 

But Eastern football still loses millions of dollars every year – dollars the students provide with ten-percent of their in-state tuition. Hats off to Coach Chris Creighton and his team, but they should fold the program, and Creighton should move on to a better job. He’s that good.  

Michigan State struggled through a disappointing 7-5 season. The Spartans have been rewarded, or punished, with a trip to the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara, California. If head coach Mark Dantonio doesn’t replace his offensive coordinator, Dave Warner, who’s offense truly is offensive, you should expect more of the same next year.  

Michigan had a much better season, but their fans are disappointed to be going to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Is anybody happy with this system?

The worst part? After most schools lose money on a game their fans don’t want to pay for, and players lose vacation time on a bowl most of them don’t want to play in, half the teams still lose. 

Happy Holidays!

* * * * *

Please join the conversation, but remember: I run only those letters from those who are not profane or insane, and who include their full name.

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  • Rick December 14, 2018 at 9:38 am

    I considered making a quick overnight trip to Atlanta to see Michigan vs Florida, but when I saw that mgoblue.com wanted $160 per ticket and the hotels were upwards of $200 per night, I quickly gave up on that notion. In addition, when I saw the tepid remarks coming out of Ann Arbor by the players and coaches, I figure they aren’t really taking this game seriously either. So, why should I lay down my hard earned money to watch a halfhearted effort 700 miles away? I can watch that sitting in my living room, in my favorite chair, pretty much for free. Good article, John.

    Reply
  • Rob Saltzstein December 14, 2018 at 10:36 am

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    The worst part is not that half the teams lose. The worst part is that the playoffs have made non-playoff bowls just look like consolation games at best. And so must feel many of the top players who think they are good enough to be drafted into the NFL.. Why should they play in a meaningless game and risk lose millions as Jake Butt at Michigan did? Plus there is a proliferation of “alternative facts” into the college bowl landscape that fans see through. The Peach Bowl, for example, sells itself as a New Year’s Day type of bowl game. But it’s being played December 29th. Please! Don’t insult our intelligence.

    Reply
  • Ned December 14, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Case in point, the disappointing Badgers are scheduled to play “The U” for the second year in a row in Yankee Stadium. That will be a warm fuzzy one! Cheeseheads travel well but i’m not sure so well to a frozen Big Apple and how about those Florida kids and their fans?!

    Reply
  • John w minton jr December 14, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    When the University Presidents say no thanks to the promoters; i.e. the ones who make the money, and demand changes that allow them to at least break even, there will probably be no more than 10 to15 so called bowl games. The players are opting out, now it’s time for the farm teams (colleges) to do the same.

    bomberjohn5

    Reply
  • Jeremy W December 15, 2018 at 10:33 pm

    What’s the data or source to support “most players don’t want to play” WRT to many of the bowls?And I’m not referring to the dozen or so kids skipping a bowl to ensure draft stock.

    Pretty decent blog entry but I don’t believe that particular point…which if true we would see the number of bowls decrease.
    Close but no cigar as to solid reasoning.

    Companies are willing to pay for these bowls.
    +
    College athletics departments want to compete in them, as do nearly all players.

    Reply
  • johnubacon December 17, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    Jeremy,

    The data comes from the decade-plus of research I’ve put into my books (much of it included in the books), and other sources like Dan Wetzel’s excellent, “Death to the BCS.”

    It is not true that if the players didn’t want to play, the number of bowls would decrease. By a large percentage, the players a few years ago voted against a 12th game — but they play one every year, don’t they? It’s ESPN that drives this. Players have very little power in this equation.

    For someone concerned about data, you close with this: “nearly all players” want to compete in the bowls. Source?

    Thanks for reading, and responding.

    -JUB

    Reply

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