It’s December and you know what that means?
Well yes, that too, but December in the sporting world means it’s bowl season. That annual bellying up to the money trough by the NCAA and it’s associated Division I conferences and teams.
Between Dec. 15 and Jan. 7 there are 35 bowls with an overall payout of anywhere between $274 million and $286 million and change. Snort, munch, crunch, rolf, snort, careful, don’t get too close, you might get something on you.
A quick run down of these annual local chamber of commerce wallet-suckers and/or alumni pleasers and it looks less like N-C-A-A and more like N-A-S-C-A-R. The Beef O’Brady Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Little Cesaers (pan, pan) Pizza Bowl, the Russell Athletic Bowl, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (really?!), AutoZone Liberty Bowl, the GoDaddy.com Bowl the list goes on and on and on.
Even the venerable great bowls have fallen victim to the shameless corporate promotion that is bowl season. It’s not the Rose Bowl – it’s the Rose Bowl presented by Vizio. The AT&T Cotton Bowl (go Sooners), the Allstate Sugar Bowl and of course, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Even the national title game can’t escape because it’s the Discover BCS National Championship Game. In fact, Discover Card is in there twice with the Discover Orange Bowl. At $34 million, $17 million per team, for the Orange and $44 million to $48 million for the title game I’d say the credit card business is doing pretty darn good these days.
And then there are the teams competing in these illustrious postseason events like the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl or the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. Of the 70 teams, 40 percent have 6-6 or 7-5 records with 12 at 6-6, 14 at 7-5, one at 7-4 and one – Georgia Tech – at 6-7.
Yep, the 6-7 Yellow Jackets will take on 7-5 USC in the Hyundai Sun Bowl Dec. 31 partly because they finished third at 5-3 in the ACC’s Coastal Division but mostly because the two teams ahead of them, North Carolina (8-4) and Miami (7-5, 5-3) are postseason ineligible and GT had the fourth-best record of all ACC teams. The Sun Bowl contractually takes the ACC and PAC-12 No. 4’s, so off to El Paso you go, Yellow Jackets.
I’ve said it before in this space that 6-6 teams don’t belong in bowl games, and 7-5 teams marginally so. It’s rewarding mediocrity and its fan base, but there is an argument to be made that if it weren’t for a missed field goal here, a last-second touchdown there, these teams would be looking at better records.
And I will admit that some of these bowl games between the hard-luck-also-rans can be very entertaining. And that some of the 8-4, 9-3 or better teams might be a bit suspect when it comes to comparing their records with their schedule, some of which are softer than the creamy inside of a Twinkie (R.I.P.). That aside, 6-6 and 7-5 records still reflect that they weren’t able to get things accomplished on the field in the way that other more successful teams did, and so – better luck next year.
I don’t begrudge the NCAA for what it’s doing with regards to bowl season. College football programs are expensive to run and if some corporate advertiser wants to lend a hand don’t bite the hand that’s extended.
Most if not all of the games payouts go to the teams’ respective conferences that in turn dole some of that money out to other schools within their conference. Kind of a rising tide raises all boats approach.
And who can blame the participating cities and venues for getting involved as well? Economic stimulus is just that, even if it comes from a bunch of alumni and fans from 6-6 Rice and Air Force, or 6-6 Pittsburgh and Mississippi.
It’s just that it would be nice to somehow return to the days when making the postseason was truly a reward for being outstanding, not for just missing.
As for the rest of us, we’ll pitch in through our respective boob tubes, contributing to those priceless Nielsen ratings driving advertising dollars. That includes yours truly, which reminds me don’t bother me between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1 – I’ve got a lot of football to watch.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.