NCAA Bowl Change Necessary–But Not What You Think!
There is plenty of discussion regarding bowls given that the 40 bowl games this year required 80 teams to fill them–requiring the selection of a few 5-7 teams and one bowl game featuring a matchup between two teams from the same conference. There is certainly ample reason to revise the bowl system to add some…. well…. sanity. Surely, eliminating some bowl games would make some sense. But an even more important change is necessary–allowing all schools to have the same number of additional practices–either to be used in preparation for a bowl or during the Spring.
It is an odd situation that the NCAA is so geared towards the haves at the expense of the have nots that only bowl eligible teams get to continue practicing. In many ways, this is the biggest reward for a meaningless bowl–a chance to let some young guys get valuable reps in practice. But once upon a time bowl games were only for 20 or so teams, meaning that a large majority were not getting those practices. While unfair to the inferior teams, the greater good of having meaningful bowl games prevailed.
Now, however, 80 teams get bowls and about 40 do not. So what once was a reward for a minority is now a penalty for the minority, as 1/3 of the FBS schools lose the extra practices by not making a bowl. This, in turn, creates a demand for bowl spots. This demand for bowl spots creates a demand for bowls. And this leads to 40 bowls, too many of which feature teams at or (now) below .500.
One way to even things up and reduce the demand for bowl games is simple–just allow all teams to have the extra practices. The only exception would be for the playoff teams–who are allowed enough practices to do what is necessary. All remaining teams would get the same number of practices (say…15) between season’s end and spring ball–and teams could use them as necessary. Call them “winter practices.”
In fact, it is perplexing that a team playing in a mid-December bowl will get less extra practices than a team playing in a comparable bowl scheduled for early January. There is no reason for this whatsoever.
With this change, all schools would be able to have 15 winter practices. Some schools may use all 15 for their bowl game. Other schools might want to use 10–even if bowling–to add 5 more to the spring. Other schools might prefer to skip a meaningless bowl game to have all 15 winter practices in the spring. This makes complete sense if a school is breaking in a new quarterback, and certainly where there is a coaching change.
From there, the bowl games can return to some sense of sanity. With demand for bowl spots no longer linked to the extra practices, the bowl games can once again be rewards for above average teams, rather than avoiding the penalty of being below average. There is certainly some reason for someone to complain about a change like this. But it seems like a very easy way to level the playing field and drive out the meaningless bowls.