How Many Bowl Games Is Too Many?
We’re almost half way through the 2018 bowl season, and we are in the middle of our annual bowl season debate. We see it every December. Questioning whether the NCAA should cut the number of college postseason games. It’s nothing new. In fact the debate has been going on since at least the 1930’s when four new bowls were added along side the Rose Bowl. Today that number has grown to 41 NCAA-approved bowls (including the CFP Championship game). Critics say that’s too much.
Many complain about the quality of competition available for the fans. Bowls should be a reward for a team’s successful season, they opine, but when 6–6 teams are filling out the brackets it’s more like teams are getting undeserved recognition. The argument goes that having that many bowls is akin to little league where everyone gets a participation trophy.
At first glance, they may have a point considering over 60 percent of FBS teams are eligible for bowl invitations. However, the question is, who does it really hurt? If fans do not want to watch a less than stellar matchup, then don’t tune in. Or wait till the last couple of days of December when better contests improve the viewing options.
But if you love football, you can still see quality games in the lesser bowls as was the case this year when Wake Forest came from behind to edge Memphis 37–34 in the Birmingham Bowl. Yet, the critics believe that a glut of bowl games tarnishes and dilutes college football’s postseason.
A brief look back into the history of bowls reveals that in the early part of the 20th century there was only one really consistent big bowl game, the Rose Bowl. By New Year’s Day 1938, there were officially five bowl games: Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange, and Sun. And so the debate began that continues to this day. How many is too many?
Fast forward to 1997, and that number had increased to 20. Today the list has ballooned to 40. The reason for the rapid growth of the last 20–25 years is the expansion of cable television. There are simply more options for broadcasting games than when there was just ABC, CBS, and NBC.
Of course there are some good incentives for going to a bowl. To start, a team gets 15 more practices and the national exposure a bowl appearance brings. Added to that is the financial reward that a lot of the so called, “have-nots” need to help keep their programs going.
However, the most important reason not to reduce the number of bowls is—the players. For many it will be the experience of a lifetime . They get a free trip to some pretty cool destination where there will be gifts, sightseeing trips, and fun activities. And, while all have dreams of playing in the NFL, only a handful will ever see that dream fulfilled, so why not let them have the experience of playing in a postseason bowl game?
After 2019 there may be even more bowls for players to enjoy. Two years ago the NCAA put a moratorium on bowl system expansion until 2020. There is already a line forming of cities wanting to petition to be a host.
News reports surfaced last summer suggesting that Chicago, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach have tentatively been approved as soon as the ban is lifted. Three more bowls could increase the number of teams from the present 80 to 86. Is that too many. Is 80 too many? I don’t think so.
As long as there are TV networks willing to broadcast them, cities wanting to host them, and schools ready to play in them—we will have bowls and lots of them. If you love watching the sport that’s a good thing because …
You can never have too much college football.
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