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10 Things to Change about College Football: The Bowl System

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This week I continue my 10 part piece on things I would like to see changed in college football. Last week's discussion on the BCS resulted in several good points across the board, though everyone only agreed on one singular point-the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

For reference, here is last week's article:


For this installment, I am going to tackle the bowl system.

A brief history of the Bowl Games:

The first bowl game played was on January 1, 1902 when Michigan defeated Stanford in the "Tournament East-West football game." This game happened to take place in a small town called Pasadena, and the evolved (after a hiatus) into what is now the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl was the only bowl game from 1916 until 1935, when the Orange, Sugar and Sun Bowls were started. The Cotton Bowl came two years later.

According to Wikipedia (because who really has time to look this stuff up), there were 11 bowl games by 1970, 15 in 1980, 19 in 1990, 25 in 2000 and a staggering 35 today*.

*There is no telling how the recently announced Big Twelve-SEC bowl deal impacts this number. It could take the place of a current bowl or add one additional game to the slate.

In 2011, the television rights of 33 of the 35 bowl games were owned by ESPN. The only two games not under control of the four letter network were the Sun Bowl (CBS) and the Cotton Bowl (Fox). If that weren't enough, ESPN Regional Television (ERT) owns seven of the bowl games (Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Gildan New Mexico Bowl, BBVA Compass Bowl, MAACO Las Vegas Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl, and the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.)


The NCAA has already instituted some changes with respect to the Academic Progress Rate (APR) for member institutions to be eligible for post-season competition.

My plan is pretty simple, and consists of a few key points:

1. Victories over D-1AA teams no longer count towards bowl eligibility

2. Teams must have a winning record to play in a bowl game. No exceptions.

3. Bowl games must limit the number of required ticket purchases by the participating schools. These requirements are typically in excess of 10,000 seats and essentially negate any pay-out from the bowl to the school. Surprisingly, the Big Ten is already trying to curtail this practice.

Just for reference, there were a staggering 14 teams** that played in a bowl game with a .500 regular season record. Four of the bowl games actually featured a match-up of six win teams (Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and the Gator Bowl).

** UCLA was actually 6-7, thanks to a trip to the Pac-12 championship game.

What was the record of these teams in bowl games?

6-8, just a shade under .500. Is anyone really surprised at that?

By reducing the overall number of schools who qualify for a bowl game, the lower-tier games will disappear. This should result in more competitive bowl matchups and a return to the bowl games being a reward for a good season instead of a perceived right by many.

By removing 14 teams without a winning record and another 6 from my playoff plan, a total of 10 bowl games would be eliminated. While this might sound like a bad thing at first, think about this-do you really want to watch a mediocre matchup between two average teams a week before Christmas? I love watching bowl games as much as the next guy, but I will concede that there are just too many now. Besides, it impacts my bowl picks.

Also, a redistribution of television rights is necessary. If the overall number of bowl games is reduced to 25, there should be more interest from the other networks to increase their bowl coverage.

The one important thing to remember in all of this is that the bowl games are primarily an exhibition. As such, they should be treated as a reward and not a right. Under the current system, there is only one that means anything (the BCS Championship Game). The rest are all just for fun.

Related Reading:'s Bowl Game History

Wikipedia's Bowl Game History and List of Bowl Games's College Football Bowl History

NCAA's Postseason Football Resources

E's Look at the Bowl Game Pyramid Scheme (my words, not his)