A Few Bowl Game Thoughts: The Rewards of Mediocrity and the Loss of Prestige

David HedlindAnalyst IIJanuary 26, 2009

Rewarding Mediocrity


That’s how many bowls were played this year. That means that out of 119 teams, 68 were rewarded with a bowl invite. Rewarded for having a non-losing season. Note I did not say having a winning one.

If we eliminated the teams that went to bowls with a 6-6 record, Colorado State, Florida Atlantic, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Southern Miss, and Vanderbilt would not have played in a bowl game. We could eliminate at least four games.

While it didn’t happen this year, there is also the scenario of teams with winning records being left out of a bowl in favor of a team that went 6-6. In 2007, Troy did not go to a bowl with an 8-4 record, while eight teams with 6-6 records went to bowls. One of these teams was an Oklahoma State team that Troy beat earlier in the season.

Yeah, I know about the conference contracts and agreements with the bowls, but does that make it right?

Teams without a winning record get a bowl just because they happen to be from a conference that has a bigger name? That is, in the BCS auto qualifying club instead of a conference that gets two bowls in a year on a good one.

If this is now the bar to get to 6-6, then I suppose we need more bowls. This year there were still three 6-6 teams that did not go to a bowl, while 2007 had six teams of 6-6 or better not go to bowls and 2006 had eight.

The Prestige Is Gone

For years and years, reaching a bowl played on New Years Day or in January, in general, was a goal. People still hold it to a certain amount of prestige. I am sorry to be the one who has to say it, but the prestige is gone.

Games like the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl were highly regarded January bowls played by highly ranked teams. Now there are a dozen bowls in January, and the teams playing in them are not all highly ranked or elite teams.

First, the addition of a couple bowls in January took away some luster. The International Bowl and the GMAC Bowl are both played in January. This season had  MAC Champion Buffalo playing the University of Connecticut, a team that finished fifth in the Big East, in the three-year-old International Bowl. Neither team was ranked.

The GMAC Bowl is about 10 years old and was moved to January in 2007. The teams playing in the 2009 were the Conference USA runner-up, Tulsa, and MAC runner-up Ball State. Ball State was ranked just inside the Top 25.

As for some of the other games played in January, the Outback Bowl had 7-5 South Carolina and 8-4 Iowa. The Gator Bowl matched up 8-4 Nebraska and 7-5 Clemson. The Liberty Bowl had 6-6 Kentucky and 9-5 East Carolina.

East Carolina did win Conference USA, but none of the other teams finished better than fourth in their conference. None of these teams were ranked.

If the prestige of January were still there, and there were no bowl conference contracts, then some of the teams in other bowls not played in January, such as the Holiday Bowl, the Sun Bowl, and the Poinsettia Bowl, could all argue their worthiness to be playing in January.