College Football Bowl Selections: The Politics of Destruction
Think you know where your team will spend the postseason? Pretty sure of that?
Perhaps you had best consider the business end of the bowl season, the nuts and bolts that generate the money to pay astronomical amounts to schools who are invited to these postseason gala events.
The selection process can become very provocative and debatable when one realizes a team is guaranteed nothing from the money people who control who is invited where, and who is not.
The following is a list of five college football teams who may be doomed to fall from the bowl hierarchy ladder, not because of anything done on the field, but what must be done to feed the kitty of specific bowl games.
No.5: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
There is a long-held belief in the appeal of Notre Dame to advertisers and fans alike. Love them or hate them, a nation of admirers and detractors follow the Irish each season.
Football fans are taught the story of the Four Horsemen at a young age. They destroyed opponents who dared to challenge Coach Knute Rockne's invincible juggernaut in the 1920s.
These days, a non-BCS bound Notre Dame is part of the Big East bowl selection order.
The Irish are eligible for an invitation to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Florida. The Champs has the No. 2 selection from the Big East for their fine event.
So we have the forgone conclusion of Notre Dame to Mickey Mouse land.
But suppose the Champs Sports Bowl prefers to have the traveling masses of West Virginia, an excited lot who narrowly missed out on the Big East BCS bid?
Where does that leave Notre Dame?
The Big East has its tie-in with the sparkling new Pinstripe Bowl in New York City.
No, Syracuse has already accepted that bid to represent the conference against Kansas State.
Other Big East destinations, Charlotte and Birmingham, seem desultory for so proud a university as the one in South Bend, Indiana.
Perhaps a case could be made for the Beef O'Brady Bowl............no.
At the danger of rousing the dander of so many Irishmen across the land, perhaps an open spot in the Pac-10 selection process could be found. Ah yes, the Pac-10, a conference not able to fill its reserved postseason openings due to the lack of "qualified" teams in 2010.
Before "Selection Sunday" is over, Notre Dame could find themselves out of the Big East connected bowl games and into El Paso, Texas for a showdown with the Miami Hurricanes.
Misery loves company.
No.4: Mississippi State Bulldogs
To anyone who has never visited the golden triangle of West Point, Columbus and Starkville, Mississippi the feverish support of the beloved maroon Bulldogs seems difficult to understand.
One may ask "when has Mississippi State ever been a factor on the national level?"
True, but the Bulldogs defeated Florida and Georgia this season while losing only to Auburn, Arkansas, Alabama and LSU. Their 8-4 overall record deserves respect when the bowl invitations are announced.
With seats at the BCS table likely to be filled by Auburn and Arkansas, and the Cotton Bowl and Capital One Bowl anxious to snap up LSU and Alabama, Mississippi State seems to be in a good position for an invitation from the other large payout SEC tie-in Bowls such as the Outback, Gator, or Chick-fil-A.
Don't believe it.
Despite losing on the field to Mississippi State, Florida and Georgia are more desired by the selection committees in Tampa and Jacksonville.
A final insult may be that lowly Tennessee, who only qualified for a bowl game during the last hours of the regular season, is a more desired commodity than the Bulldogs from Starkville.
Why? We must not only ask the question but demand an answer.
While we contemplate our response, do not be shocked to find the Bulldogs in Memphis or Nashville.
No.3: Maryland Terrapins
2010 was a good season for Coach Ralph Friedgen's Terrapins.
Maryland finished second in their division of the ACC and won eight games while losing only four.
Despite the fine performance and lofty standing, Maryland may not be in the upper crust of desired football teams when bowl bids are extended.
The result could be a downhill slope of factors beyond the control of the Terrapin team.
The reasons are multiple, but the impression that the Terps don't travel well and that they do not even have a regional following has been discussed over the seasons, leading to a group of disappointed fans.
However dedicated, the numbers are not there for the Terrapins to visit the upper-tier ACC Bowl tie-ins, Champs and Chick-fil-A, and only an outside chance remains for them to receive an invitation to the Music City event.
Why is that? Because league runner-up Florida State is headed to Atlanta, and the Orlando event desires a school who will bring busloads of followers to shop in their mercantile center.
The Meineke in Charlotte appears headed to receive Clemson as their ACC guest. For that alleged indignity Maryland can be thankful, but the remaining conference openings in El Paso and Shreveport may be out of their grasp as well.
A final option is the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C.
Say it ain't so, Joe.
No.2: South Carolina Gamecocks
Coach Steve Spurrier's crew won the SEC Eastern Division title this season. Along the way the Gamecocks defeated Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
It is possible for South Carolina to be passed over for a New Year's Day bowl in favor of any of the three teams previously mentioned.
The Outback Bowl has indicated an interest in matching Florida against Penn State,
The Gator Bowl has made known to the Jacksonville community that they would like the same confrontation.
If the Gators and Nittany Lions are taken by the Outback, the Gator Bowl may eye Tennessee or Georgia to fill the SEC slot against Michigan, or perhaps Iowa if the Hawkeyes do not end up in the Insight Bowl.
As everyone in the football world is aware, South Carolina just spent a very uncomfortable weekend in Atlanta where they were pulled apart like so many wishbones in the SEC Championship Game.
This experience seems to cast doubt on the willingness of the Gamecocks' much vaunted traveling circus of fans to attend another Peach City event at the end of December.
In short, South Carolina may be up the same creek as Mississippi State,each without a paddle.
No.1 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Heroes one minute, bums the next.
After blowing a 17-0 lead and losing to arch foe Oklahoma in the Cornhuskers' sayonara performance in the conference championship game, how much help do you believe Nebraska will receive from the Big 12 or its affiliated bowl games?
Nebraska produced a strong team this season, winning 10 games while losing three times by a total of 13 points.
That is not the problem. The issue is the joker in the deck.
Nebraska's decision to bolt for the Big Ten beginning next season is not likely to be warmly received by events who owe much of their existence to the conference the Cornhuskers have spurned.
The exciting venue of the Cotton Bowl should be the likely destination of Coach Bo Pelini's Big Red Machine, but do not bank on it. From the looks of things that will be a Texas A&M-LSU confrontation.
Maybe a nice trip to the west coast for the Holiday Bowl? How about a visit to San Antonio?
Surely, we cannot be discussing the Ticket City Bowl. It must not come to that level of frosted development between the Cornhuskers and the conference they helped build into a titan.
Nebraska may get to spend time in a somewhat more temperate climate, but it is likely to be in the Insight Bowl where the opponent could be an inspired Iowa Hawkeye squad eager to prove who is still the king of corn.
Oh, the humanity.
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Uppermost in the mind of each fan is the desire for their team to be treated fairly and with honor during an evaluation.
The five teams listed in this article have performed their duties well. To think otherwise would be to dismiss many fine accomplishments.
Problems arise when there is a selection order when all of the variables rest in the hands of the selector.
South Carolina and Nebraska did not wish to lose their conference title games, Mississippi State doesn't want to be judged on population figures, Maryland desires to have a national identity and Notre Dame tried to avoid a culture of unsuccessful seasons since their last National Championship in 1988.
If a bowl has the No. 3 selection from a conference they should be required to take the third place team. Instead, that choice is for the bowl officials to make among all remaining teams.
This is how feelings are hurt and trust can be put to the test.
If the entire point of the non-BCS bowl games is about advertising and attendance, not rewarding for performances on the field, why have any regulation at all concerning how many wins are required to be bowl eligible?
A case in point was demonstrated this weekend by Arizona State. The Sun Devils won six games but two were against "FCS" schools due to scheduling difficulty. Coach Dennis Erickson requested the school appeal to the NCAA but late Saturday afternoon received word their request had been denied.
Why? If Bowls are going to use their second selection to choose a seventh place team just because they are more well known, what difference does the number of victories make?
Does it make the administrations at locations of higher learning feel they have done their due diligence to ensure athletic and academic conformity? That some meaningless figure of wins has been achieved so they can all sit back and say "you must prove it on the field?"
Remind yourself of that the next time a 7-5 squad who lost head to head to an 8-4 school in the same conference is taken before the team who defeated them.