2012-01-13 / Commentary

Bowl game for the ages

It’s not a criticism; It’s an observation
Mike Cox

Just about a year ago, I wrote a feature about the excessive number of college football bowl games. Last January’s effort was similar to one the year before, which resembled the one preceding that one, and so on.

After the 2011 effort I vowed to refrain from jousting with that windmill again. I made my point, and no one listened. There is little chance anyone from the NCAA is reading my weekly column. There is also little chance anyone from the BCS is capable of reading above a second grade level. It seemed like the perfect time to retire the annual rant. Then this year’s Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl intruded on my life, and yours, in late December.

This bit of stinky gridiron exhibition featured two storied programs from established conferences matching up to settle the ultimate question. On the surface this sounded like a contest for the ages; The Fighting Illini against the UCLA Bruins. Sadly, neither team came equipped to support the history of their respective programs. I can’t imagine even the most depraved football fan tuning in.

Illinois entered the matchup hotter than Kathy Bates in About Schmidt, having lost six straight. One more and they wouldn’t have been bowl eligible. UCLA was coming off a sound thrashing in the Pac 10 Conference Championship game, which followed a 50- 0 loss to arch rival USC. The Trojans were on probation and couldn’t represent anyone. One door closes, one opens.

The Mighty Bruins had to petition the NCAA. A team cannot play in a bowl game with a losing record unless approved by a higher authority: Not Tim Tebow, the NCAA. Why the college football governing body allowed UCLA’s participation is a mystery akin to Obama’s trip to Mars. To add to the pageantry, both teams’ coaches were fired before the season ended.

NCAA loyalists defend the status quo insisting that deserving teams should be rewarded for a successful season. If your effort was so pitiful and your coach got fired, you don’t deserve a reward. And we don’t need to watch. The contest was probably uglier than Black Friday at the Red Bank Walmart.

The current bowl glut is embarrassing. Bowl trips used to be special treats for a handful of worthy teams. Games were crowded over the New Years’ holiday. One bleary-eyed stretch and it was over. Now we see mediocre teams playing each other in drab locations, the action described by some low level announcer who isn’t familiar with college players or rules.

The NCAA needs to immediately institute a rule that forbids any team with fewer than eight wins from accepting a bowl bid. That simple change should eliminate half the teams now participating and reduce the number of bowl games to a respectable level. I realize this request is falling on deaf ears, but I’ll give the power brokers one more opportunity to do right.

Maybe better judgment will prevail next year. Maybe television will finally realize quality is better than quantity. Just like with Reality TV, Pit Bull, and Kardashian sisters, we are way past the acceptable human threshold. Something has to change.

I’d rather watch Kathy Bates in the hot tub.

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