Let's put some money where the mouth is, SEC fans (and Oregon fans). Let's not show up for bowl games in a display of protest.
I'm dead serious, and more than a little angry. How many times has ESPN/ABC/GamePlan prevented you from being able to watch a major national game --- or perhaps simply a more attractive game, rather than, oh, Wake Forest-FS-Who --- over the past few years? Since when do TV programmers and broadcasters do fan-friendly things? Since when does the television beast give equal and fair publicity to SEC teams, compared to media darlings in major markets or with sexy brand names? Alabama --- had the Tide gone undefeated --- was going to be the latest SEC team left outside the BCS title game candy store.
It has to be asked --- of Gator fans (who could be shafted out of an Outback Bowl just because of South Carolina ticket and hotel sales) and everyone else in the SEC: when will you have had enough? When will you get sick and tired of allowing politics to bite you and your team in the backside? When will you have enough stones to make one act of real resistance?
Let this plea not fall on deaf ears. As a national columnist in addition to my duties here at GatorCountry, I get to see how fans in all regions of the country get shafted by television programming decisions. Even in SEC country, you --- as Gator fans --- know that Oregon (along with Auburn) is getting jobbed at the expense of Notre Dame, the Teflon Mafia figure for whom no objective football measurement makes one damn bit of difference. I know that there are ultimately many more pressing problems and needs in the world, but for what it's worth, why can't SEC fans muster up the moral courage to boycott one bowl game in one year, and send a louder-than-loud message to college football's power brokers?
Before I go any further, a side note on matters of justice and fairness is in order for Gator fans: yes, in most years, Shreveport would be a destination worth boycotting, to protest exclusion from the Outback Bowl for no legitimate football-based reason. But this year, Shreveport demands attendance because the Louisiana town, burdened by the aftereffects of Katrina and Rita, could really use the infusion of income. A road trip to Shreveport could be packaged not with touristy kinds of activities, but with outreach to the state of Louisiana and its people, who have slipped off the national radar screen (shamefully but not surprisingly) but still need the generosity and support of other Americans. Going to Shreveport --- if that town is the destination for Urban Meyer's team --- would be an act of outreach that, for Florida's fan base, is highly recommended. (Stopping by New Orleans on the way to Shreveport and seeing what can be done for Danny Wuerffel's ministry might be just the thing to do in conjunction with the Independence Bowl if that is indeed UF's bowl game.)
But now, back to the bigger picture in relationship to bowl boycotts and other SEC fan bases who won't have the chance to pump money into a Shreveport economy that needs cash…
Auburn fans, if you're stuck with the game formerly known as the Citrus Bowl against Wisconsin, do not go to "beautiful downtown Orlando." It's not a BCS game, but it's the highest-paying non-BCS game, and it's on ABC on January 2, just before the same network airs an almost-certain Fiesta Bowl game between Notre Dame and Ohio State. What better way to expose the BCS/ABC power axis, and embarrass a lot of suits, than to leave a half-empty stadium just before Notre Dame takes the field for a Fiesta Bowl it has no business being in? Make no mistake: such a display of guts would get substantial front-page publicity and create an enormous amount of uneasiness among college football decision makers. An Auburn boycott of the ex-Citrus Bowl would embarrass the broadcasters, sponsors and advertisers, not to mention ex-Citrus Bowl organizers who would have to demand that the BCS be fair in future seasons. If enough of these SEC-Big Ten bowls are financially crippled by means of boycotts, the collective economic impact could be great enough that it might overwhelm any positive financial aspects posed by Notre Dame's appearance in a BCS bowl. With enough bowl boycotts from SEC fans --- clearly the most loyal and passionate in the United States --- college football power brokers will have no choice but to stop giving Notre Dame undue leverage and preferential treatment.
And then, outside the SEC, there's Oregon. Should Duck fans bother to see their team play in the Holiday Bowl? Folks from Eugene, if they want their own conference to be treated with respect --- one year after Cal and high road-holding Jeff Tedford lost to political lobbyist Mack Brown --- should not put up with or accept a lower bowl invite. If UO's Holiday Bowl opponent is Oklahoma, one could forgive Oregon fans for going to see a game against a big-name opponent. But for the love of humanity, if UO draws sad-sack Colorado, there isn't one good reason to go to Jack Murphy Stadium. (I know the official name of the stadium is different, but with all the corporate shenanigans enmeshed in the bowl selection process, why should I give any publicity or mention to a corporate name on a stadium or a bowl game? For that same reason, I referred to the "ex-Citrus Bowl," and not to the official name for that particular bowl game.) Precisely because the Holiday Bowl is in sunny San Diego, it has historically been a great bowl destination, especially for fans of a Pac-10 team from the soggy Pacific Northwest. Therefore, a no-show by Oregon's fan base would force Holiday Bowl officials to also lean on college football power brokers and plead for fairness in the bowl selection process.
Boycotts --- from Orlando to San Diego and perhaps other places in between (but not Shreveport, only because of post-Katrina and post-Rita economic needs in this one year), they'd create a delightful political mess. But now, in Auburn and Eugene, fan bases need to take their stand. Want Notre Dame to continue to get away with highway robbery? Show some guts, and declare that you're sick and tired of being sick and tired