Even the most casual fan would probably agree that more football is never a bad thing, and it isn't. But when teams who finish with no better than a .500 record are invited to the sport's postseason, something isn't right. More importantly, when .500 teams are invited ahead of a team with an 8-4 record because bowl executives believe they can sell more tickets if they invite the 6-6 team, the whole things starts to stink of greed and greatly takes away from the grandeur that used to come from playing in a bowl game.
The Temple Owls finished the regular season with an 8-4 record this year. They even took down the eventual Big East Champion Connecticut Huskies on September 18, but the Owls were not invited to a bowl game while 8-4 UConn heads off to play Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Meanwhile, 13 teams that finished the regular season 6-6 (BYU, UTEP, Louisville, FIU, Georgia Tech, East Carolina, Illinois, Tennessee, Washington, Clemson, Georgia, Middle Tennessee and Kentucky) will play in a bowl game. Army is 6-5 and may become the 14th 6-6 team to go to a bowl game if they fall to Navy in the annual Army-Navy game in Philadelphia this Saturday. Western Michigan was the only other bowl-eligible team not to be invited to a bowl, but they also finished with a 6-6 record.
Obviously, there were more bowl-eligible teams this year (72) than there were bowl spots available (70), but Temple's snub personifies the unjust postseason system that plagues college football. A simple solution would be to require all teams with a winning record at the end of the year be selected to bowl games before .500 teams, but that ignores the obvious problem with the current bowl system that rewards mediocrity. A good season is typically marked by an 8-4 overall record, but simply requiring a winning record would be an important upgrade over the current requirements.
I, for one, am on pins and needles waiting for the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl and the Little Caesars Bowl. And don't forget about the Ticket City Bowl and the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Hey, I may even check out the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
The point is there's really no reason to include these lower tier bowls in the postseason. Fans may get a kick out of seeing their team play once more before the long offseason and the bowl executives will line their pockets with ticket sales (more on that in a minute), but it doesn't take away from the fact that the existence of 35 bowl games rewards mediocrity on the field and takes away from the prestige of playing in a bowl game that teams who have played well have earned.
Now, about those ticket sales. It's obvious that bowl games choose teams based on which teams they believe will sell more tickets. They don't try to hide that and that's why Temple is left sitting at home. The Owls are not exactly known for high ticket sales and inviting them to a bowl game wouldn't be much good to bowl executives. Of course, bowl games often require participants to purchase a certain amount of tickets to the game to resell to their fans who would like to attend. The problem is, schools rarely unload all of the tickets they're forced to purchase and are left with thousands of unsold tickets.
Those who argue there are never too many bowl games often point to the payouts that bowl games give to the competing schools. What program couldn't use a few hundred thousands of dollars? The payouts are often offset by the fact that teams must pay their way to the bowl (travel, accommodation, food, etc. for players, coaches, band, etc.) and buy tickets to the game that they'll never be able to sell.
In their book, Death to the BCS, Yahoo! Sports writers Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan point out a particular instance in which ticket sales and payouts played a direct role in which team a bowl game chose to invite. With Central Michigan set to play in the Motor City Bowl and the other spot yet to be filled, San Diego State offered to take a payout of $250,000 and take the rest of the advertised $750,000 payout in face value tickets. Florida Atlantic, however, offered to take $750,000 in tickets in lieu of cash all for the honor of playing in a low-tier bowl game that probably didn't have much of an effect on the program. Needless to say, Florida Atlantic played Central Michigan in the 2008 Motor City Bowl and the bowl advertised a $750,000 payout.
The authors point out that "the majority of bowl games leave schools in the red, requiring conferences to pool bowl payouts and take revenue generated by BCS games to cover the losses from lower-tier ones, such as the Motor City Bowl." If the requirements for bowl-eligibility were raised to at least seven games, some of the lower-tier bowls would inevitably fail, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Not only would deserving teams such as 8-4 Temple go to bowl games, but it would restore the integrity of the bowl season and perhaps even save schools a little money by taking off the table the prospect of sending their players, coaches, cheerleaders and band cross-country to play in a bowl game to which they'll be unlikely to sell the tickets they're forced to purchase.
Deserving teams compete in bowl games, the honor of the bowl season is restored somewhat, bowls that are independently viable survive and less money is needlessly wasted sending mediocre teams to bowl games that few watch and fewer will attend.- Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
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