Over the past two years, the college bowl games have been proved to be almost meaningless. Players skipping games to avoid injuries. Coaches being fired and moving on, before the games have even taken place, too many games, Average teams being rewarded. These are just some of the issues.
So, how do we solve this?
The biggest bugbear I have personally had with the Bowl Games. There are just too may of them. There are 40 Bowl games in the FBS played over a couple of weeks. With the ‘lesser’ games being played first, and the more ‘attractive’ games played later in Bowl Season.
This number of games is just too many. But how could we reduce them. Truthfully, we probably never will. There is too much money in the contracts for games for these to be changed. At least not any time soon. And the bowl games do have benefit for smaller schools. They gain some additional publicity and media attention that they do not receive at any other point in the year.
But, just imagine. With less games, and the right criteria, we could create very competitive games, that people want to watch, unlike currently where stadia are ¼ full and lack any form of atmosphere. This increase in competitive, visually attractive games, will in my opinion, allow the public to fall in love with Bowl Games again.
We also have issues with players skipping the games, to ensure they are healthy for the draft. This is a trend that has appeared more the past two years. It is understandable why they would miss the game, they have their career to think about, and this could be over before it even starts. Think Jaylon Smith, who is lucky to even be able to walk fully, never mind play football at the highest level.
Players skipping the games has now become accepted. Recent players to sit out the games in Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery, did not have their draft stock affected by sitting out the game. So why wouldn’t they sit out. They know they are going to be a first day selection. So why even risk that, for a ‘meaningless’ bowl game.
How can we solve this issue? Truthfully, there is no way. Players face no punishment for missing the game, and ultimately, it is their choice. The only option, I can potentially envision, is some form of committee, similar to the Playoff Committee, creating a list of exempt players. Players that at this point have declared for the draft, and are consensus 1st / 2nd round picks. Only these players would be allowed to miss the bowl games, if they wished so. Everyone else must play barring any injuries.
Increasing the number of top quality players, playing in these games, will help to increase the marketability of the games, thus hopefully increasing attendances.
But, it isn’t only the players that are missing these games. No. Coaches are missing these games too. It has become common for a coach to move schools before the Bowl game is even played. To the extent that coaches have been criticised in the past for electing to stay at the current school. With coaches changing schools so easily, it flags up issues with players transferring schools. They must sit out a year after a transfer. Coaches do not.
The solutions available, implement an NFL like system, where coaches can only be interviewed and appointed at set windows in the season, after the season has already finished. This could stop the coaches leaving prior to the end of their season.
Secondly, the player transfer system could be changed to remove the sit out rule. But this will bring additional issues with schools ‘tapping up’ players and essentially recruiting from other schools.
Further to my above point on the quantity of bowl games. This number of games, allows for average teams to be rewarded. There are teams with .500 records who are rewarded with a Bowl Game, that in my opinion is not deserved. There have even been instances, in which teams under .500 have made Bowl Games.
We should not be rewarding poor performances. Is that not a hollow victory for a team, to have a terrible year? Make a Bowl Game purely because there are so many of them, maybe win. And gain a trophy for it. This is not how football should be. Are we going to start handing out participation trophies like they are 5-year-old?
There is no obvious solution to this problem. You can’t make teams better than they are. The only thing possible. Reduce the number of games. This is the only solution. Reduce the number of games, you will have more teams with .750 type records. Two .750 teams going against each other, will create a far more watchable game than a .750 and a .500 resulting in a one-sided game.
The FBS Bowl System, is flawed. Its flaws are obvious. But no change will come, not any time soon. So, for the next few years, we will just have to watch the Bowl Games slowly die, before someone at the NCAA comes around to a solution. Hopefully, they will be fixed, before it is too late.
This guest piece was written by Alex McQueen. Alex is a Cincinnati Bengals fan and has followed the game for over 10 years. His college team is the Cincinnati Bearcats. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @Queenie_1993