Should NCAA football teams with losing records play in bowl games?
I don’t root for teams. I root for Marriott points, working computers, relaxed deadlines and NCAA tournament sites in New Orleans or Tempe. I also root every year for something else: More bowl berths than eligible teams. I root for chaos. My thinking: Perhaps that is the only way NCAA and bowl officials realize the absurdity of 70 of 120 division I-A college football teams competing in the postseason.
I was so wrong. I underestimated the officials. Instead of abolishing some of these bowls, they may take a different approach: If there aren’t enough good teams to fill the slots, let’s send the bad ones to the bowl games, right? Maybe. Officials are engaged in ongoing discussions about the possibility of proclaiming teams with losing records eligible for bowl games if there is a dearth of 6-6 teams (as if most 6-6 teams are even deserving).
Look, I understand the athlete participation argument that some coaches may make: More kids get to experience the postseason in their respective sport. College basketball coaches used it as part of their talking points as they beat the drum for tournament expansion over the past year. But, specifically in college football, awarding 5-7 teams with bowl berths smacks of the everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality. These teams don’t deserve the trip, the gift, the game, etc. And who wants to see them play?
There comes a point when the product is watered down. I don’t think growing the NCAA tournament to 68 teams diminishes the product. A 96-team field would have diminished it. In college football, 35 bowl games – some played in half-empty stadiums – already waters down a significantly flawed postseason. The bowl season already so often feels anticlimactic. There may be a thrilling ending or two, but deserving teams often don’t get an opportunity to play for the national title and the cards are stacked against non-BCS teams. The postseason often is a letdown after a scintillating, 14-week-or-so adrenaline rush.
Now you may get the chance to see a 5-7 team in a bowl game? It could happen if this gets approved. Last season 71 teams qualified for bowl games. This season, there are 70 available berths in bowls. Not a big margin for error. And consider this: Upsets have been more prevalent – see James Madison v. Virginia Tech – so teams can’t assume they can get over the six-win hump with one victory over a flyweight I-AA team anymore.
There is a real possibility that there may be a shortage of eligible teams, this year or in the future. I don’t have an issue with a basketball team reaching the tournament with a losing record because that team earns the berth by winning its conference tournament, claiming the automatic entry.
But picture this: Maryland beats Navy, Morgan State, Florida International, Duke and Wake Forest this season. Under that scenario, the Terrapins could perhaps claim just one victory (Navy) against a team that finishes the regular season with a winning record. And they would finish the regular season without a road victory. And you’re going to tell me fans should rejoice and book plane tickets to see their five-win juggernaut play in the gotta-see GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 6 because there are not enough eligible, or deserving teams?
I’ll stay home. Forget the Marriott points.
Here is the link to the story written by Brent Schrotenboer, an excellent reporter from San Diego.
| September 23, 2010; 9:24 AM ET
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