Column: Line Drives — Change the bowl game criteria

[This is my column in the Dec. 26 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Let’s talk football.

We’re six days and 10 games into the college football bowl schedule, and frankly, that’s 10 games too many.

In 1995, there were 108 teams competing for 36 spots in 18 bowl games. That translates to one third of all college programs earning berths in the postseason.

And now, 20 years later, the number of teams in Division I (or Football Bowl Subdivision, to be more technical) has increased by 20 to 128.

The number of bowl games, however, has more than doubled.

There are 39 bowls this season, meaning 78 of the 128 schools — more than 60 percent — get to play in the postseason.

And this year, at least 15 of them don’t deserve to be there.

Currently, a team becomes bowl eligible if it has six wins, only one of which can be against a school from the Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA).

Because of those lenient requirements, there are 14 teams that finished with a 6-6 record and earned a bowl berth this year. The Duck Commander Independence Bowl on Saturday and Monday’s AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl will pit two of those mediocre teams against one another.

Exciting, isn’t it?

Then there’s Notre Dame. The Irish started the season 6-0 and was ranked fifth in the country. After a four-point loss to then-No. 2 Florida State, Notre Dame has gone just 1-5 since, including losing its last four games.

While the 7-5 record certainly fits the criteria for being eligible for a bowl game, the Irish don’t belong in one.

Notre Dame was once in the conversation for earning a spot in the coveted College Football Playoff. Now, it will meet Louisiana State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

Wait, the what?

That’s another indication to me there are too many bowl games.

Two decades ago, the postseason games had bold names.

Cotton Bowl Classic. Peach Bowl. Florida Citrus Bowl. Sun Bowl. Gator Bowl.

Just to name a few.

Those simple names have been replaced.

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. Quick Lane Bowl. Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. TaxSlayer Bowl. New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Your-name-here Bowl.

There’s still the staple Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, Cotton and Rose bowls, only they are preceded by names of companies that have forked over millions of dollars for the right to have its name attached.

I get it, money talks.

If a company is willing to put forth the financial requirements to sponsor a bowl game, the NCAA would be foolish not to accept it.

But when a stadium is nearly half full — I’m trying to be optimistic here — for the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl in Nassau, Bahamas, is the money worth it?

Unfortunately, though, that is not a question for which I have the answer.

In the grand scheme of things, however, 39 bowl games are too many.

Even for the football-loving fan inside me.

There’s a certain aura surrounding the Major League Baseball playoffs because so few of the teams — 10 of the 30 — make the postseason. The exclusivity puts more value on the regular season, even if there are 162 games. (That debate may be left for a later column.)

Back to football.

With more than 60 percent of the FBS schools playing in bowl games, I feel making a bowl game isn’t that big of a deal anymore. Granted, I don’t know what it’s like to be part of a team that has played in a bowl game.

I went to Central Michigan University, a school that has been in five bowl games in the last seven years including Tuesday’s 49-48 loss to Western Kentucky in the aforementioned Bahamas Bowl. The Chippewas erased a 49-14 fourth-quarter deficit, scored on the final play of the game only to come up short on a game-winning 2-point conversion attempt.

As an alum, it’s neat to know my alma mater gets to play on the national stage. On the other hand, I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone not affiliated with Central Michigan or Western Kentucky who really had an interest in the game on Christmas Eve.

So I have an idea.

Make the college postseason more lucrative. Return to the time when it actually meant something to go to a bowl game.

Whether that becomes upping the eligibility requirements to winning perhaps seven or eight games, so be it. Doing so puts more value on the 12-game schedule, therefore rewarding teams for having a successful season rather than just a mediocre one.

I love football. If I had my way, the season would last more than seven months.

But 39 bowl games?

That’s just too much.


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