Opinion: Bowl Game Berth Not What It Used to Be

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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)


Is appearing in the Quick Lane Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl really an accomplishment?

Every December, the college football bowl season is met with mixed reactions. Some fans love it, as it gives them an excuse to watch football every day for two weeks. However, there's a growing majority of people who have become fed up with bowl season and have legitimate gripes when it comes to how college football conducts its postseason.

Bowl games began in 1902, when the first-ever Rose Bowl game was played in Pasadena, California. By 1940, there were five major bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange and Sun). The number of bowl games rose to 11 by 1970, 15 by 1980, 19 by 1990, 25 by 2000 and now 40 in 2016.

In the 70s, 80s and 90s, accomplishing the goal of playing in a bowl game was a substantial achievement because only the best of the best received those coveted invitations. Currently, with 40 bowl games, 80 out of 128 FBS teams are able to participate in college football's postseason, a whopping 62.5 percent. Even if we round down a bit and say six out of every 10 teams in college football make a bowl, that seems like an alarming amount. These numbers beg the question, are there too many teams competing in postseason play in college football?

By comparison, let's evaluate the amount of teams that make the postseason in other major college sports. In NCAA men's basketball, 148 teams qualify for one of the four postseason tournaments (NCAA, NIT, CBI and CollegeInsider.com). 351 schools sponsor Division 1 college basketball and therefore, only 42.2 percent of teams are able to compete in postseason play. If we focus on just the NCAA tournament, the main event that fans care about, only 68 teams qualify or 19.4 percent.

In women's college basketball, only 41.3 percent of Division 1 teams compete in any form of postseason play. Percentages are even smaller when it comes to college baseball and softball, as only 21.7 percent of teams in each sport qualify for the NCAA tournament. Professional sports tell a similar story, as 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs in the NHL and the NBA while only 38 percent of NFL teams qualify for the playoffs and only 33 percent in the MLB.

The point of all these facts and figures is to illuminate how the current college football bowl system has de-valued the accomplishment of qualifying for a postseason bowl game. When nearly two-thirds of your sport makes a bowl game, is appearing in the Quick Lane Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl really an accomplishment? Is that a trophy or a ring that should be displayed proudly?

Additionally, a 2014 NCAA study recently found that expenses exceed revenue at all but 20 schools in the FBS, and most of that money is spent on football. The study also found that the average athletic deficit at non-Power 5 schools was $17.6 million.

On the surface, an expanded bowl game field might seem like a positive for many non-Power 5 schools who dream of reaching a bowl game in the future. However, the reality is that many athletic departments are spending massive sums of money to fund football programs that will never achieve enough to make up the difference.

Is appearing in the Quick Lane Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl really an accomplishment?

Kelly Gramlich can be heard Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-noon on "Out of Bounds" with William Qualkinbush on WCCP 105.5 The Roar.

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December 13, 2016


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