Bowl games are nothing new in the landscape of college football with nearly 100 years of history, but as of late, the perception of bowl games is starting to be put into question.
A team’s reward for a good season has been to play in a bowl game and take in all of the pageantry that goes along with said bowl. However, as the calendar has turned to 2019, bowl games are being questioned now more than ever before. Whether it’s attendance numbers, perceived meaning, players sitting out, or anything else, bowl games are getting drug through the mud by many.
But is this criticism fair? Do all of these bowl games have a meaning or are they just there for profit? It really depends on who you ask, but from this viewpoint, bowl games still matter and should be viewed in a positive light. You can think there are too many bowl games all you want, but let’s keep in mind who these bowls are directed towards.
Bowls are great ways for players, coaches, fans, and everyone involved with a college football program to get a reward for a good season. It becomes a bit convoluted when an abundance of 6-6 teams, or even certain 5-7 teams in years past, get to go to a bowl game, but the vast majority of bowl teams yearly deserve to be there.
These bowl games give college athletes an opportunity to create moments that will resonate with them forever, what is exactly wrong with that? Would it be better to see fewer 6-6 teams in bowls and maybe a few fewer bowl games? Maybe, it just depends on who you ask. But just because someone personally believes bowl games don’t matter anymore doesn’t mean they don’t mean something to the programs involved.
And let’s be real, the postseason format in college football is flawed on a good day. It only allows four out of 130 FBS teams to compete for a national championship at season’s end. The majority of the FBS is eliminated from national championship talk before the season even starts, especially in the Group of Five.
The G5 doesn’t get enough nationwide respect from national pundits and talking heads. When a team like UCF wins 25-straight games at the FBS level and doesn’t even sniff the playoff, that screams how the system in place doesn’t give the “little guy” a chance to compete at the highest level. Sure, the highest-ranked G5 team does earn a New Year’s Six bowl game bid under this format, but that’s only one team.
Just look at college basketball, a sport that allows 68 teams to compete for a national championship at season’s end, many of which are mid-major programs. That has led to some of the sport’s biggest moments, such as Butler’s run to back-to-back national title games, George Mason’s Final Four run, VCU’s Final Four run, and Loyola-Chicago’s Final Four run. Mid-majors get the chance to prove they can compete at the highest level.
Yes, there are many more Divison-I college basketball programs than FBS college football teams. But only allowing 0.03 percent of FBS teams to compete for a national championship in football doesn’t give the majority of teams a chance. Thus, bowl games become more important.
Especially for the G5, a bowl game is the only validation for having a good season. Why take that away from those teams? If the College Football Playoff wants to branch out and start including more teams, sure, some bowl games could start fading away. But until the playoff branches out, bowl games are all G5 teams get as a reward.
Many love to point out the fact that more and more players are sitting out bowl games, and that is a trend that has been going on lately. That isn’t, however, an indictment of bowl games and their meaning. It’s simply a business decision to preserve a player’s future. It isn’t anything personal against those bowl games and it shouldn’t automatically diminish a bowl game’s significance.
Just look at some of the celebrations from certain teams that managed to win a bowl game this season. It was genuine, pure, and awesome to see how great bowl games are when everyone is invested from top to bottom. G5 teams care about bowl games and if the bowl system is taken away, these G5 teams get nothing at the end of the year.
How is that fair? It isn’t. It can’t be just about the Power Five, because that is where the perception of bowl games start taking a turn for the worse in the first place. It’s P5 teams that think they got jobbed out of the playoff or a bigger bowl that decide not to take the bowl season seriously. It’s mainly P5 players that decide to sit out bowl games.
It’s P5 teams that get the most 6-6 teams into bowl games. There are five other conferences in FBS college football outside of the P5, and some tend to forget that. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in winning the Camellia Bowl or the Bahamas Bowl. There is nothing wrong with having more football.
Let’s also not forget how much these bowl games help the local economies in the host cities and how much charitable work goes into them as well. Just because bowl games don’t mean anything to you personally doesn’t mean they don’t mean something to the players involved. There is still a place for bowl season, and it’s time folks start realizing that.