The American college football bowl season is upon us and again there is much debate over its legitimacy.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association saw the beginning of play for its myriad of bowl games under the Bowl Championship Series system on 20 December.
In total there are 34 bowl games and the final one is the FedEx BCS National Championship this Thursday 8 January.
The current system employs computers to appoint teams to the bowl games based on a complex formula that takes into account win-loss records, conference, school status and quality wins (i.e. upsets, good showings against quality schools).
Now before the flaws come to the fore it has to be noted that the system has its merits. For one thing it’s a financial windfall for all colleges that participate.
It’s no secret that all the matches are nationally televised and schools run recruitment ads during breaks. The school’s status is heightened, recruitment can go up and it’s a win-win for all involved.
Add to that the schools athletic department get some form of donation, however small, from the sponsors involved.
The other is the bowls are generally very interesting match-ups.
Even though for the most part the teams involved are decided by computers the games are close, many unheralded schools get recognition and the bowls themselves tend to take on their own character (some bowls historically feature plenty of offense like the Hawaii version while others are normally tight games like the Alamo bowl).
Ultimately I find myself being unable to overlook the negatives.
The biggest will be the bowls don’t provide a clear champion. Now I’m not being ignorant becauseI realize there is a national title game. But look at the teams playing for the national title this year.
Florida and Oklahoma are both one-loss teams. Both played well, deserve a chance to play for the title and barely came up short of perfection to decent squads.
But I wonder about Alabama, Texas Tech and Texas (among others) who all have one loss as well.
They have identical records and got big wins throughout the year so what stops them from playing for the title: a bunch of computers somewhere working with a formula?
The crux of the issue is after the title game is over and done there still won’t be consensus about who the real champion is.
All of the colleges mentioned above have every right to feel snubbed and walk away from the season upset and disappointed.
The thing is that issue leads to a compounded problem in that every year good teams will not get the bowl they deserve while mediocre teams get a much better position.
Take for instance this year’s squad from the University of Utah. The team went undefeated at 12-0, the only team in college football to get that mark. Yet they are not even considered for the national title game.
Granted they did well to get into the Allstate Sugar Bowl, one of the more established games on the schedule. But come on, an undefeated season in most sports has you primed for a championship run if not a spot in the title game.
On the flipside there is Louisiana State University. LSU is a decent club at 8-4 but their conference record is just 3-5. Yet they get to play in the prominent Chick-Fil-A bowl against ACC Coastal division winner Georgia Tech.
Meanwhile 12-1 teams like Ball State and Boise State, who were 8-0 in conference play, have to settle for more less-renowned games like the GMAC and San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia bowl.
Those examples have a negative effect in my opinion. It makes the bowl system, essentially college football’s playoffs, more about the name of the schools rather than regular season performances.
The teams should get the most appropriate bowl otherwise the system needs to be overhauled.
Some time ago US President-elect Barack Obama said college football should do away with the bowl system and revert to a proper playoff system seen in other sports.
I wholeheartedly agree. It’s fairer, more entertaining and truly does justice to small schools and their fans who work so hard to compile good records and hardly get to star in a good game in the ‘postseason.’
The only thing I’d add to Obama’s point is how it would work out. All 34 bowls could be kept in place but treated as games within various rounds of the playoffs.
Sure, the teams would play more games but it would be a good step for many players looking to turn to the NFL.
Bear in mind the pros play 16 regular season matches not including the playoffs that could see four extra games.
The amount of teams who are bowl eligible would have to be reduced and controversy would arise from who gets in versus who doesn’t but for me that’s a problem universal to all sports.
Ultimately, the bowl system has big issues but at least the bowls create the sort of attention college football can build on.