Whether you like the bowl system or not the bowls are an important part of college football, but they have a big problem. Boredom has replaced excitement for most bowl matchups. The reason for this is the proliferation of conference tie-ins which restrict bowls to the same short list of teams year in and year out.
If the Gators aren't in the BCS they are looking at Orlando, Tampa or Atlanta. Whoop-Dee-Freakin'-do! With few exceptions the non elite bowl trips have become tedious for most good programs because there is nothing overly special about the same old same old.
A few days ago I discussed the issue with one of the most forward thinking bowl executives, Rick Catlett of the Gator Bowl. He is part of that exchange.
LV: Is there any chance of ever getting away from the conference tie ins and create more variety in the bowl opportunities for teams as well as team opportunities for the bowls?
RC: I hope so. As you know I have been trying to advocate for this for 12 years. The first time I got the six conference commissioners together in Atlanta I told them, guys we're going to have repetitive teams. It's not going to be good for our bowls; it's not going to be fun for the student-athletes or the fans. You're now beginning to see that happen with Texas in the Holiday Bowl three times in five year, us getting West Virginia almost every year and Wisconsin playing in Central Florida five straight years. That's why we worked to have the ACC against either Notre Dame, the Big East or the Big 12 to show them how it would work and it's worked tremendously well for us and the conferences are happy with it. I just can't get enough of them (conference commissioners) to realize that moving things around would make a heck of a lot of sense.
Catlett went on to describe one possible way of mixing things up.
RC: How about us taking the Capital One Bowl (Orlando), the Outback Bowl (Tampa), The Cotton Bowl (Dallas) and us and throwing them in a selection pool and putting two teams from each of the BCS Conferences east of the Rockies in there. It doesn't hurt them (the conferences) because they're going to get the same amount of money, but the kids and the fans will get to do other things and see other places.
LV: The idea I've had is to have a draft after the BCS takes its teams and let the bowls choose from the rest of college football with the picking order being based on the previous year's payout.
RC: It could be better than the NFL Draft show. It would be a lot of fun.
LV: You know by mid-November most teams know they are going to one of two or at most three places, but with this no one outside the BCS would have any clue. All the players, coaches and fans would be on the edge of their seats waiting to find out where they're going to go.
RC: Why don't you tell Mike Slive to make that happen because I'm all over that?
LV: No, what we need to do is go up to ESPN and convince them because if the TV boys want it, they'll get it.
RC: That's what I'm talking about with the mini-thing I suggested earlier. Let the BCS pick and then we (the New Years Day games) pick next because we have the next highest payouts and let's make a show of it. The Capital One Bowl, you're on the clock who are you taking? It would be a lot of fun to see that.
LV: You think there would be a big response to an SEC/Big 12 game in Jacksonville? Maybe not for Florida or Georgia but wouldn't every one else be thrilled?
RC: That's funny, Larry because you know we're negotiating our new deals and that's exactly who we're after is SEC versus Big 12.
With most Bowl contracts in negotiation it might be several years before the idea of getting away from those tie-ins has a chance to take shape. As I mentioned in the conversation the impetus for this probably has to come from ESPN which televised most of the games. Still it's fun to think about opening up the process and giving schools and their fans a greater variety of possible destinations.
Catlett made his comments on my radio show on AM-850 WRUF. You can listen to the show weekdays from 4:00- 6:00pm on am850.com.
Get Rid of Conference Bowl Tie-ins
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