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Sports Authority

Ivey: Bowl games are overrated

| Thursday, December 3, 2015

This college football season will end with a record 41 bowl games, including the games that make up the College Football Playoff.

That means at least two and as many as five teams with below-.500 records will play in bowl games this season.

To become eligible to play in a bowl game is a relatively simple process, finish the regular season with at least a .500 record.

But due to the abnormally high number of bowl teams needed to fill in the bowls — no pun intended — the NCAA has adopted an interesting way of determining which 5-7 teams will get to go bowling. The NCAA announced that the 5-7 teams who have the highest Academic Progress Rate (APR) will be the ones receiving bowl invitations. The current teams with losing records that have the best APR are Nebraska, Missouri, Kanas State, Minnesota, San Jose State, Illinois and Rice.

Missouri, however, has said it will decline any bowl invitation they get. It wants to focus their time on finding a new head coach after longtime coach Gary Pinkel stepped down after a tumultuous season on and off the field.

The NCAA shouldn’t spend it’s time determining which 5-7 team should receive a bowl invitation. Instead they need to ask themselves this: Did we go way too far with the number of bowl games there are?

The answer to that question is, “Yes.”

Forty-one bowl games is an unbelievably high amount of games. I love watching bowl games as much as the next guy, but this is ridiculous. The product on the field and on TV becomes staler if you keep trotting out a number of bowl teams that feature MAC teams against teams from either the Mountain West or Conference USA. What’s the point of even playing a game between two 6-6 teams from mid-major conferences? It’s not entertaining. But we continue to see a rise in the number of those type of bowl games every year.

Playing in a bowl game should be a privilege for a college football team, not a right. Playing in a bowl game should be an accomplishment for a team. It shouldn’t be a handout. It should mean something.

The rising number of bowl games every year is starting to make bowl games lose their prestige. Where’s the excitement in playing in a game like the Bitcoin Bowl or the Mobile Bowl or the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Bowl? Especially if a below-.500 team is playing in it.

The reason why the NCAA keeps adding bowl games is simple: money. But some of these games look like they are losing money instead of gaining money. At last year’s abysmal Heart of Dallas Bowl between Illinois and Louisiana Tech, the announced attendance was 31,297 for a Cotton Bowl stadium that can seat 92,100 people. That’s not a good look for the games.  It’s even worse when the game is played in a NFL stadium like Ford Field in Detroit. The crowd at the Little Caesars Bowl last year looked like it had about 800 people in attendance.

Another reason for the rising number of games is the NCAA thinks people will watch no matter what. And to an extent, they’re right. A good number of people do watch those types of games, whether they are people who bet on the over/under of the scores or the fans of the teams themselves. They’re starting to seem like a made-for-TV event.

But that’s one of the things I have a problem with. Bowl games shouldn’t be a made-for-TV event just for people to bet on. They should be the culmination of a long, hard-fought season for two football teams and their seniors.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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