Bowl Season’s Mentality Shift
USA TODAY Sports
When did bowl games begin to lose their luster?
I remember bowl season being my favorite part of the college football season when I was younger. To be able to sit at home on break from school and have the ability to watch college football throughout the holiday season was wonderful. Now, we have talented, future NFL players sitting out bowl games, fearful of injury instead of playing one last game with their college teammates.
And maybe nothing has really changed, maybe it’s just my own false perception of the situation. But something certainly feels lost since the creation of the playoff system. Before, during the BCS era, there was only one game that truly had “meaning.” Now, with the playoff system, there are three.
I’m a big supporter of the playoff, but it’s pretty apparent that the system is taking the luster off of the other bowl games.
Part of the problem lies with ESPN. The sports media giant holds the television rights to 98 percent of bowl games. It’s difficult for second-tier bowls to build any sort of hype when the network is putting all of its time and money into boosting ratings for the playoff matchups.
So if the fans start to doubt the importance of these games, the players will too, which helps explain why we’re seeing athletes forgo their bowls in order to focus on greener pastures—something that holds “meaning” to them. The playoff system has created a mentality shift.
But there is one aspect of bowl season that will never change.
For many seniors, a bowl game is the last competitive football game they will ever play. The last opportunity to suit up and represent their respective institutions. The last opportunity to be part of a team.
And I think that still means a hell of a lot to most—playoff or no playoff. These athletes have poured their entire lives into this game, and bowl games serve as an opportunity for graduating athletes to lay it all out on the field one last time.
And since it is an exhibition of sorts, why not let redshirted players participate with no penalization to their eligibility? The NCAA should let these younger athletes travel with the team and play in a real game setting. This simple rule change could do wonders for player progression and generate more incentive for viewers to tune in and see future college football stars.
Why not reward redshirts that have worked just as hard all season in practice by allowing them to have the opportunity to fill in for those that choose to skip the game?
Just my two cents.