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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
Meaningless bowls. Too many bowls. Made-for-TV bowls. Shrinking attendance.
There have never been more bowl games, and three years into the College Football Playoff era there are more questions than ever about why these games are being played at all. Especially when high-profile players such as Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette choose to skip the postseason to protect their bodies for the NFL draft.
There is currently an NCAA-imposed freeze on the creation of new bowls that caps the field at 40 through 2019. Over the next few years the people invested in the bowls - commissioners, athletic directors and bowl executives - will consider ways to improve the bowl system and answer the question: What should bowls be?
Chances are there will be fewer bowls, data-driven limitations on how many bowls a conference can lock in and maybe even postseason games played on campus. But for those who long for the days when there were a dozen or so bowls that rewarded only the very best teams in college football, well, you might as well wish for the return of leather helmets. Neither is coming back.
Everyone agrees that while the bowl system isn't perfect, it doesn't need to be razed.
Andy Bagnato is a former sports writer who also worked for four years as a public relations executive for the Fiesta Bowl. He now runs Bagnato Pflipsen Communications, a consulting firm that helped Phoenix land the this year's Final Four and last year's College Football Playoff.
"The question for people in college football is: What's the utility of the bowl?" Bagnato said. "Is it a great trip for your alumni? For your student-athletes? Is it television exposure for four hours for your program? Is it a branding exercise for the school and for a conference? For the communities I think the questions become: Are they tourism magnets? Is the utility of a bowl game the fact that it attracts tourists? All those are factors."
The main reason is the same as it ever was. "The first thing we want them to be is a reward for the players," said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Once the minimum for postseason eligibility was drawn at 6-6 when the regular season expanded to 12 games, pressure built on conference officials to place each eligible team in a bowl.
Coaches want the extra bowl practices to develop players and the ability to sell a bowl game to recruits.
"Mr. Commissioner, if my 6-6 team stays home I'm going to be your worst enemy," Football Bowl Association Executive Director Wright Waters recalled hearing from one university president when he was commissioner Sun Belt Conference.
The bowl lineup grew to 40 games as Power Five conferences locked up spots in most existing games and other conferences such as the American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt and Mountain West worked to create new games - often with the help of ESPN.
The result is that during the past two years 5-7 teams played in bowl games.
"Beginning in 2020 I seriously doubt there will be 40 bowl games," Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson.
But no conference is about to voluntarily shut down one of its bowls.
That's where the oversight committee will come in. Bowlsby said the group has been analyzing data to determine how many bowl slots each conference can typically fill. When bowl lineups are reset for 2020 and beyond, conferences will likely be limited to a number that matches a five-year average of the eligible teams they have produced.
Benson said when Texas State went 6-6 in 2013 but was shut out of the postseason, the conference broached the idea having the Bobcats play a 13th game on campus.
"It could be a way to navigate when we have too many teams for the number of bowls," Benson said.
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