Bowling season not what it once was

(An outsiders view of life at The Heights, aka Boston College)

If this sounds like a rant, it is because it is a rant.

The regular part of the college football season is almost over. We are now into championship week. That will be followed by the first set of bowl games (pre-Christmas and Christmas Week) and then the New Year's Day type of games and then the playoffs and then the CFB championship game.

College football has 128 teams that play at the major college FBS level. The post season used to be a reward for a season well done, usually at a warm place, with sunshine and festivities which offered a feel good atmosphere even if your team happened to lose its bowl game.

Now it is reward for participation with only a narrow margin of success.

A Jersey Guy has been covering FBS football since 1982, which is 34 seasons of games.

In 1982, there were 16 bowl games, five--Cotton, Orange, Rose, Sugar and Fiesta--held on New Year's Day. And there was NO national championship game, unless it was an accidental meeting of two conferences with bowl ties being ranked No. 1 and No. 2.

In 1992, the bowl total had increased to 18 games, with 8 on January 1. and there was a national championship game arranged by the rankings.

In 2002, the total had expanded again to 25, the BCS had been created with a pecking order of ranked bowl teams facing each other.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

By 2012, the bowl total had expanded to 35 games, with a movement towards a Final Four tournament of bowl teams on the horizon.

In 2016-17, there will be 40 bowl games, which means that 80 of the FBS teams will play in the post season. As of Saturday, only 74 teams were bowl eligible. A few more teams will become eligible this week if they win their games, but the total number of bowl-eligible teams will still be a short of the required total of 80.

To fill in the gaps, the NCAA passed legislation which will allow a select number of teams with less than the minimum of six victories (5 vs. FBS and 1 vs. FCS competition) required. Those teams will be chosen based on their Academic Progress Rate, rather than on their football appeal.

All of this is wrong. When 62 percent of the teams playing FBS football become bowl eligible, the reward for a season well played diminishes in value.

When bowl games are being played in Detroit and Boise, Idaho in December, you are stretching the limits of what can be done for entertainment, no matter how hard the host committees work. When Boston College played a game in Boise a few years ago they ran out of potatoes at a BC team meal--in Idaho.

When a 14 team conference such as the ACC has "bowl'' slots for 10 teams, you are rewarding mediocrity, not achievement.

When a team such as Boston College can become bowl eligible by winning three of its games against teams with a combined record 7 of 29, you wonder about the value of the other wins, which reveal that the only team with a winning record the Eagles' beat was Wagner, an FCS opponent.

Small wonder, that BC is again in the bottom tier of the ACC bowl line up, with its post season choices apparently limited to a trip to the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. and the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md.

Remarkably, BC has been to both Shreveport and Detroit for bowl games.

The entire bowl system needs to be re-tuned. There aren't enough slots in the CFB playoffs (4) to handle all of the Power 5 conference schools and there are too many bottom tier bowls with bad teams, playing games in cities that have little appeal, with a minimal amount of interest.

But the system won't change because television--specifically ESPN, which not only televises but actually sponsors and runs some bowls--needs college football programming in December.

Coaches don't complain, because they use ""took a team to a bowl game'' on their resume and they get another two weeks of practice time in December.

Some leagues have made the best of the bad system. Take the American Athletic Conference, which has eight arrangements with eight bowl games, including games in Miami Beach, St. Petersburg, Fla, Boca Raton, Fla, and Orlando.

None of the bowls will have any great impact on the overall standings in the season, but the chances of playing a game in a warm climate is fairly high.

I said at the start, this was a rant. And it is now over. Nothing will change, although a minimum of seven wins (all against FBS teams) should be imposed to thin out the bowl herd.

So let the games, if not the fun, begin. And let's reward participation, rather than achievement. It is, after all, the way things are now done and is part of the bowl system.

***

Barring a Clemson loss in the ACC championship game against Virginia Tech on Saturday, Boston College looks like it will be headed to the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26th against a Big Ten team (probably Maryland, Indiana or Northwestern) or the Military Bowl in Annapolis on Dec. 27th against an American Athletic Conference team such as Temple.

The irony of this arrangement is that Temple-BC would be a better venue, with more interest for the bowl and for the fans, but the Eagles would probably prefer to play a second division Big Ten team in Indiana, Northwestern or Maryland , than a possible AAC championship team in Temple.[/membership]

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