I’m a sports guy. I think that has been long established. Even before I made my living covering sports, I was a sports guy.
My favorite memories of New Year’s Days past were getting up early in the morning on the west coast and diving into the day’s bowl games. All four of them.
The Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA and capped off by the Orange Bowl in Miami. By the end of the night, you knew who the National Champion in college football was. It was also the grand finale to an 11 or 12 bowl schedule.
Back on New Year’s Day 1972, for example, the 1971 season was capped by a dozen bowl games. The first two on Dec. 18, 1971 were the Sun Bowl and the Pasadena Bowl. Two days later came the Liberty Bowl. Seven days after that was the Fiesta Bowl and a day later the Tangerine. December 30th brought us the Peach Bowl and the following day the Gator Bowl and – my personal favorite – the Bluebonnet Bowl set the table for the big four.
It was perfect. We got to see 24 teams battle over a 14-day period. Not too much, not too little.
This year there are 39 bowl games plus the National Championship game to be played on Jan. 7th – not on New Years Day. Oh, and two of the old traditional New Years Day bowl games – the Cotton and the Orange – were played on Dec. 29th.
We now have the Dollar General Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the Cheez-it Bowl and the RedBox Bowl (a game I am watching as I write this as a matter of fact). The one college football bowl game I covered during my sportswriting days was the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
We have teams with 6-6 records playing and having watched some of these games you can see why they were 6-6.
My point is, the college football bowl games have lost their magic. Half the time I’m not even aware they are on. With over three times as many bowls today as there were as late as the mid-1970s perhaps its time to revisit the whole bowl setup.
For years I advocated for a 16-team playoff in Div-I football (like they pretty much have in every other division in the NCAA). They could easily incorporate 15 of the top bowl games into this playoff bracket. And if we MUST have the other 25 bowls foisted upon us, make it into an NIT-style tournament like they have in basketball. Or better yet, just jettison them altogether. They won’t be missed.
The top three bowls – Rose, Orange and Cotton – would rotate between the semi-finals and championship games each year. The Sugar, Gator, Sun and nine of the other older bowl would fill in the rest of the playoff bracket.
It would do two things. It would make the games more interesting to watch – especially if the national title game was played on Jan. 1st again – and might put more fans in the stands of all of the bowl games. That RedBox Bowl game I’m watching between Oregon and Michigan State that is being played in Santa Clara, CA? It is being played in front of a half-empty stadium.
I think we’re oversaturated when it comes to bowl games. It may be time to take the old adage: “Less is More!” to heart.