There were 41 NCAA bowl games last season. Forty-one bowl games featuring 80 NCAA teams. Eighty teams out of 128 teams that play on the NCAA bowl level. That’s 63-percent of all FBS level college football teams.
Three of those bowl games featured teams with losing records (Nebraska, Minnesota, and San Jose State all with 5-7 records). Numerous of the games matched up schools with 6-6 records. The Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl was a matchup of two teams from the Mountain West Conference (7-5 Colorado State and 6-6 Nevada) that had already played that season, and which left the conference commissioner calling the system broken.
College football bowl games are supposed to reward achievement. Making a bowl game means that a team has accomplished something remarkable, like winning its conference, or being ranked in the top 25. A bowl trip is supposed to be that special something at the end of a good, winning season that sends players, staff, and fans away from hectic northern winters to prime tourist destinations in warmer climates, like Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix, or Los Angeles.
Nowadays making a bowl means nothing more than a team achieving mediocrity. And bowl games are everywhere. Sure there’s Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, and Phoenix, but there are also games in the Bahamas, New York City, Fort Worth, Houston, Albuquerque, Boise, Detroit, Birmingham and Mobile. There are two games in New Orleans. The Metroplex hosts three bowl games as does the Miami area. There were two games within four days of each other in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl.
Thirteen of these games are owned and/or operated by ESPN Events, a subsidiary of ESPN. Many of these thirteen are lower-tier bowls, featuring teams from the more minor conferences and teams that barely gained bowl eligibility. Many of these thirteen are poorly attended and appear to exist for two reasons: to give ESPN holiday programming, and to give something for gamblers to bet on.
But amazingly, there was the possibility of three more bowl games added for this season. That is until last week when the NCAA placed a three-year moratorium on new bowl games, meaning that Austin, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina are going to have to wait until at least 2019 to try and get a bowl game nobody really wants in their cities.
It was just five years ago that the NCAA placed another three-year moratorium on new bowls. But that moratorium was more centered on ironing out financial improprieties that arose from the Fiesta Bowl. But this time out, it’s more about trying to get a grip on a system that was getting too large, too quick.
The three-year moratorium also comes at a time, according to a CBS Sports story, that ties into the expiration of the deals that most of the bowls have with the host cities, conferences, and television networks. So the result could be that, come 2019, instead of granting new bowl games, the NCAA could instead due away with games that fail to attract fans and/or television audiences, or it could also mean that bowls are transferred to other cities with the hopes of better audience participation arising from a different location.
Every sane person can agree that there are too many bowl games, so ultimately the hope has to be that, instead of adding games in three years, or keeping the same number, that the NCAA finds some way to pare that number down a bit. Teams with losing records should not be playing in bowl games, and fewer 6-6 teams would also be a good thing.
While it’s possible there could end up being fewer bowl games in the future, what’s likely to happen is that the minor conferences, the Conference USAs, the Sun Belt conferences, would suffer in return by fewer of their teams making bowls. Because ultimately it’s not about winning records, it’s s about drawing crowds and ratings, and bowl officials will always want a 6-6 Texas Longhorns team over a 8-3 Rice team.
But that’s still three years away. For now there are still too many bowl games being played in places that no one would want to visit as a reward that will feature too many teams with 6-6 or losing records. Because after all, there can never be too much of a bad thing, and for the most part, bowl season has turned into a long, boring string of bad football games.