Too many bowls spoil the game

Everything gets its value from its scarcity. If you could find flawless diamonds on every street corner, they wouldn't be so expensive at the jewelry store. If your neighborhood pond was teeming with lobsters, a seafood dinner wouldn't cost nearly so much.

That's why it's a little disconcerting that the NCAA recently approved 32 college football bowl games for 2007 – the same 32 it approved for 2006. Bowl games are no longer scarce, and that has cheapened them considerably.

Here are the bowls that have been approved for 2007:

Alamo, Allstate Sugar, AT&T Cotton, AutoZone Liberty, BCS National Championship, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces, Brut Sun, Capital One, Champs Sports, Chick-fil-A, Emerald, Fed Ex Orange, Gator, Gaylord Hotels Music City, GMAC, Humanitarian, Insight, International, Meineke Car Care, Motor City, New Mexico, Outback, Pacific Life Holiday, Papajohns.com, PetroSun Independence, Pioneer Pure Vision Las Vegas, R+L Carriers New Orleans, Rose, San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia, Sheraton Hawaii, Texas and Tostitos Fiesta.

When I was a kid there were five bowl games – the Rose, the Sugar, the Orange, the Cotton and the Gator. Of course, when I was a kid, John F. Kennedy was President and gas was 25 cents a gallon. Times change. Your waistline expands and your mind narrows.

Regardless, earning a bowl bid was a big deal when only five were extended each year. It basically meant you were one of the 10 best teams in college football. That was quite an honor.

Now, you just have to be one of the top 64 teams to get a bowl bid. More than half of all major-college programs got bids last season. Several teams with 6-6 records earned postseason berths. Is winning half of your games really cause for celebration?

Don't get me wrong; the fact that Troy and Rice met last December in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl doesn't trouble me. I have no idea who R+L Carriers is but I'm sure the players, coaches and fans of the two programs enjoyed the game. If so, I'm happy for them.

Still, I get a little bummed out when programs brag about how many bowl teams they've fielded through the years. Many quality programs are guilty of this, including Tennessee.

The Vols have played in bowl games 25 of the past 28 years, which sounds awfully impressive until you look a little deeper. Two of the bowls folded shortly thereafter – the Bluebonnet (1979) and the Garden State (1981). In addition, the Vols played in a Sun Bowl (1984) and suffered back-to-back Peach Bowl humiliations at the hands of Maryland (30-3) and Clemson (27-14) in 2002 and 2003, respectively.

Oddly enough, the three non-bowl teams Tennessee has fielded over the past 28 years – 1980, 1988 and 2005 – all finished with 5-6 records.

Perhaps you're wondering: Why are so many non-descript bowl games being sanctioned? Money, of course. The NCAA reports that $217.6 million in bowl revenues was distributed among the participating schools and conferences last season. I'm sure the NCAA kept a few bucks, too.

Still, I have no problem with the NCAA or its member institutions making money off postseason play. I'm just concerned that the glut of contests, while increasing the profits for the schools, cheapens the game in the process.


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