It's the time of year for the three most nauseating words in our nation’s college sports landscape: “The Bowl Season.”
It is the time of year where rivalries between strangers are forced upon us, and matchups between teams are created using every piece of logic except that which is in the game’s (and the fans') best interests.
This year we will be smothered with 35 games, involving 70 schools, stretched out well over the next month.
To put that into perspective, there are 120 total schools in the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (there's a mouthful), meaning that almost 60 percent of all D-I schools are apparently worthy of postseason exposure.
If you watch only one bowl game this year, the odds are strong that it will feature a team with at least five losses, as 29 programs come in with such a pristine record. Add in the teams with only four losses (12), and well over half of the programs in this year’s bowl season feature records that are the definition of mediocrity.
This year, get ready for bowls brought to you by The Potato, The Pinstripe and The Sun.
Get ready for bowls of the blue-collar variety (MAACO & Meineke), as well as the white (Belk & Poinsettia).
Get ready for bowls that will make you want to stand up (Armed Forces), sit down (Hawaii), and even fight-fight-fight (Alamo).
Maybe somebody can explain to me what “Holiday” is being celebrated at the December 27 bowl game between Baylor and UCLA.
Or please explain why the choice isn’t death when Iowa State and Tulsa meet in the Liberty Bowl at the obvious center of our nation's independence: Memphis, Tennessee.
Be sure to cross your fingers that the Compass Bowl ends with two losing teams (both in score and record), or that the BCS Championship Game leaves us satisfied that a real national winner has been decided.
I could understand the point of a college bowl season if two things happened: (1) the games give us a true national champion, and (2) the schools actually reap a benefit. Neither, however, is the case.
For one, there is never going to be a true national champion under the current bowl season setup.
Not when conference runners-up get automatic byes into the championship “finals” as Alabama did last year. Not when The Con is commanded by computers and coaches polls over the players and what goes on between the white lines.
Not when I have a perfectly functional pencil in one hand and a blank bracket sheet in the other, ready to do some damage. Not until there is a playoff. Thankfully, that is coming in the very near future.
Getting beyond the obvious need for the NCAA to institute a method of determining a champion that is mimicked by every other sport, in every other league, pro or amateur, including all other divisions of college football (D-II, D-III, NAIA), the bowls do severe financial harm to all but a very small number of university pocketbooks.
It is a virtual certainty that the majority of schools competing in this bowl season will lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars just by showing up to their respective bowl game. Think of the cost and effort to transport 70 players, a couple dozen coaches, the trainers and assistants, and all the truckloads of equipment they require, across country.
This is not a simple road game, where you rough it for one night, and return home. Teams spend the entire week at the site of the bowl. Feeding and housing these people is not cheap.
Furthermore, schools are required to front money on thousands, upon thousands, of tickets that they guarantee to the Bowl they will sell, in order to make their program more desirable for the selection committee.
In a report last year from the Arizona Republic (via AZCentral.com), Virginia Tech lost over $420,000 from playing in the 2011 Orange Bowl. That was mostly due to the school's inability to sell the 22,700 tickets it was forced to accept. That figure would have been much higher, had the ACC not reportedly covered nearly $1.2 million of the loss.
The University of Connecticut convinced less than 3,000 of its fans to buy tickets (out of 17,500) to the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, costing the school close to $1.8 million.
Northern Illinois will be in financial trouble at this year's Orange Bowl. The school must take 17,500 tickets for the game. However, the school's average attendance is only 15,670. It's tough to imagine the school matching those numbers on a game some 1,500 miles away.
According to a Bloomberg News report, the list of college programs losing huge sums of money goes on and on—Fresno State, Missouri, Rutgers—simply because they want to play an extra meaningless game.
These huge losses are often covered, albeit partially, by the school’s conference, which if you follow the paper trail far enough, is just a fancy way of saying the tax-paying public foots the bill, whether you go to the game or not.
I am advocating the public to speak with your remote controls. Watch something else. Anything else. Let's break free from the suffocation the bowl season brings us.