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The bowl system continues to disappoint everyone (who doesn't profit, at least)

John U. Bacon

The people who run all 39 college football bowl games recently picked the 78 teams they want to showcase this holiday season – even though there are only 130 teams to choose from. In other words, they have to dip into the bottom half of teams to fill the bowls.

What used to be a great honor 50 years ago, when there were only 10 bowl games for 20 teams, is now just another game on the schedule for every program that can still field a mildly competitive team.

Contrary to popular belief, most bowl teams lose big money on these trips, because the bowls require them to pay for thousands of tickets their fans don’t want to buy.

The long list of bowls includes many with unwieldy names like the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, the Academy Sports Plus Outdoors Texas Bowl, and the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl.

Here’s a tip: If they need more than one word before “bowl,” it’s not a very good one.

My personal favorite, the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, is named for a fictional pirate. Or a bunch of bad-ass mowers. I’m not sure.

The Belk Bowl sounds like the large plastic vessel we hurry to grab when our three-year old son has the stomach flu.

“Need to belk, boy? Quick -- grab the bowl!”

The AutoNation Cure Bowl invited two teams from Louisiana to travel to Orlando, while the New Orleans Bowl invited teams from Tennessee and North Carolina to travel to, yes, Louisiana. I don’t get it, either.

Why go to all this trouble, when so many fans and players just don’t care? Here’s a hint: Of the 40 post-season games, 32 of them – 80 percent – are broadcast by ESPN. Guess who loves this crazy system?

Still, you might be interested to know Western Michigan will travel to Boise to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. But, if Idaho’s potatoes really were that famous, would you have to call it that? Whatever. I think I know what those players will be eating at the official banquet.

Eastern Michigan University’s 7-5 record earned the Eagles an invitation to play in the Raycom Media Camillia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. That might not sound like much, but that’s Eastern’s second bowl invitation in three years – after a three-decade drought. Kudos.

But Eastern football still loses millions of dollars every year – dollars the students provide with ten percent of their in-state tuition. Hats off to Coach Chris Creighton and his team, but they should fold the program, and Creighton should move on to a better job. He’s that good.

Michigan State struggled through a disappointing 7-5 season. The Spartans have been rewarded, or punished, with a trip to the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara, California. If head coach Mark Dantonio doesn’t replace his offensive coordinator, Dave Warner, whose offense truly is offensive, you should expect more of the same next year.

Michigan had a much better season, but their fans are disappointed to be going to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Is anybody happy with this system?

The worst part? After most schools lose money on a game their fans don’t want to pay for, and players lose vacation time on a bowl most of them don’t want to play in, half the teams still lose.

Happy Holidays!

John U. Bacon is the author of ten books, six of them national bestsellers. His latest, Best of Bacon: Select Cuts, is out now. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.

John U. Bacon has worked nearly three decades as a writer, a public speaker, and a college instructor, winning awards for all three.
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