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Everybody Gets A Trophy in Over-Bowled College Football World

Apr 27, 2010 – 5:05 PM
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Brett McMurphy

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When the NCAA announced last week that it was recommending the men's basketball tournament expand by only three teams, the heavens parted. Grown men wept. There was dancing in the streets.

OK, so I made up the dancing in the streets reference. But there was a genuine "whew!" from hard-core college basketball fans, who didn't want to see a behemoth and bloated 96-team basketball tournament featuring nearly every major college team no matter how mediocre they were.

They didn't want the regular season to become meaningless. They didn't want a team that finished one or two spots out of the league cellar to be rewarded with a postseason berth.

In other words, they didn't want it to become college football.On Thursday, exactly 46 seconds before a teleconference was held to discuss the NCAA men's basketball tournament expansion, the NCAA posted on its official website the news that the NCAA had licensed 35 bowls for the next four seasons.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence the NCAA released the bowl news when the majority of sports journalists were tied up reporting on the men's basketball tournament? Or maybe they hoped no one would notice that there's one more bowl game than last season or that 70 of the 120 FBS teams -- 58 percent of all teams -- will now receive a bowl bid.

Remember when receiving a bowl bid was considered prestigious? Or was an actual accomplishment? Or for that matter, remember a time when bowls had simple names like Cotton, Gator, Orange, Peach, Rose and Sugar?
Then there's the (Sea World/ Thrifty Car Rental/Plymouth/ Culligan/ Pacific Life) Holiday Bowl, which has gone through more sponsors than Courtney Love.
Of course, these days bowls are known -- or not known -- by their sponsor's names. This year, we've got beauties that roll off the tongue such as: AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl and San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

Then there's the (Sea World/Thrifty Car Rental/Plymouth/ Culligan/Pacific Life) Holiday Bowl, which has gone through more sponsors than Courtney Love.

In past seasons, bowls whose conferences didn't have enough eligible teams were required to select teams from other conferences with an overall winning record (such as 7-5) before it could select a 6-6 team. However, that kind of thinking is so 2009.

Because of the plethora of bowl games, the Big 12 proposed NCAA legislation last year that would allow bowls to select a "more marketable" 6-6 automatic qualifying BCS team over a 7-5 non-automatic qualifying BCS team.

"Our feeling is that a 6-6 team from the Big 12 that has played five teams in the Top 25 should not be in a different position from a 7-5 team from another conference that may have only played one or no teams in the Top 25," Big 12 commissioner Don Beebe told the NCAA News last year. "The six-win team is probably more marketable in some cases than the others, so it should be treated the same."

In each of the past three years, there have been 71 teams that won six games and were "bowl eligible." That's a razor-thin margin to have enough non-losing teams to fill all the bowl bids. With 70 bowl teams needed this season, there is a very real possibility that there won't be enough "bowl-eligible" teams available, so the NCAA is in the process of figuring out how bowls will fill their slots should there be a shortage..


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What will be the selection process among the losing teams? Maybe a bowl would want to select a local 4-8 team instead of a 5-7 team that would have to travel several hundred miles. Would the NCAA allow that? At this point, who knows?

"They don't have a formula yet, but the NCAA has told all the bowls that if there aren't enough bowl-eligible teams [that are at least 6-6], all the bowls will still be played," Bruce Binkowski, executive director of the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and the San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl told the San Diego Union Tribune. "They still need to figure out what the formula is going to be."

Do they ever. Too bad they've forgotten about the old formula, where a team had to win to earn a bowl berth.

Now, all you have to do is play 12 regular season games and promise to buy tickets -- not actually bring fans, mind you; but just commit to purchase the bowl's entire ticket allotment -- and a guy wearing a funny-colored blazer will be extending a bowl bid in a December press conference.

How easy was it get to a bowl game last season?

Of the 68 teams that went to a bowl last season, 20 did not finish with a winning record in their respective conferences. Of those 20 teams, nine were .500 in league play and 11 had losing records, including eight teams that were at least two games under .500 in conference play.

And yet this year, by not even needing six wins, the NCAA has made it even easier to get a bowl bid.

In 2010, the majority of automatic qualifying BCS schools have scheduled an FCS opponent. Of the 66 automatic qualifying BCS schools, only 11 (Oklahoma, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Texas, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Washington and Notre Dame) did not schedule an FCS team.

So for the other 55 automatic qualifying BCS schools that play an FCS team, all they need to do is beat an overmatched FCS team and then go 5-6 or even 4-7 against FBS opponents in 2010 to "earn" a bowl berth. Only in America!

Not convinced the bowl business gotten out of hand? Here are four bowl games in 2010: Bell Helicopter Armed Forces, EagleBank, Kraft Fight Hunger and New Era Pinstripe. Without Googling, name the cities they are located in? Go ahead, I'll provide the answer a little later.

While the NCAA certified a record 35 bowl games last week for the next four seasons, they did actually reject two bowls: the Cure Bowl in Orlando and the Christmas Bowl in Los Angeles. The NCAA turned down two potential bowls? Talk about burying the lead.

Anyway for my little quiz, the Helicopter Armed Forces, EagleBank, Kraft Fight Hunger and New Era Pinstripe bowls will be played in Fort Worth (Helicopter Armed Forces), Washington D.C. (EagleBank), San Francisco (Kraft Fight Hunger) and New York (New Era Pinstripe).

Let's just hope they actually feature teams with winning records.

Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at brettmcmurphy@gmail.com or follow on Twitter @BrettmcmurphY
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