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College Bowl Games 2010: Too Much of a Good Thing?

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The 2010-11 college football bowl season kicks off on Saturday, December 18 and run through Monday, January 10. Seventy college football teams will be able to boast that they played in a college bowl game this season because a record 35 bowl games have been scheduled— more than double the 16 games played back in 1996.

More Bowl Games Being Held Each Year

Football is about as American as apple pie, but most people are shaking their heads over the increasing number of bowl games held each year. SB Nation columnist Kevin Ray mockingly calls the college bowl situation Bowl-a-Palooza. Associated Press writer Ralph D. Russo refers to it as college football’s bowl-nanza. Kalani Simpson of Fox Sports simply started his December 15, 2010 column with the words, “There are far too many bowl games.”

With so many bowl games being played, they are no longer the symbol of excellence they once were. Even though most colleges and universities don’t want to admit it, money is one of the biggest factors in the whole college bowl extravaganza.

George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel offered his commentary on the topic in November. Conferences want to secure as many bowl slots as possible for their teams and schools love to get a bowl bid because it rewards fans and players. It can also be a great recruiting boost. Most cities are eager to host bowl games because it can drum up business and tourist traffic during the tough economy we’re living in.

Participating in bowl games can even cost schools money. Participating teams are typically required to buy a block of tickets, typically 10,000 or more each, to help ensure a minimum revenue stream for the game. Many schools are unable to resell the tickets to students and fans and are forced to “eat” the tickets, often at a huge cost.

“Some bowls struggle, and thanks to that ticket guarantee, they know they’re going to sell X-number of tickets,” said Bruce Binkowski, executive director of San Diego’s two bowl games. “I think it would weed out some of the weaker bowls” if schools were not required to buy a block of tickets from these games, he said.

Common Bowl Game Problem: Athletics vs. Academics

The NCAA claims that one of its core purposes is “to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount” but critics disagree.

Seven bowl games are being played before Christmas this year, mainly to accommodate television. ESPN owns four of the bowls played before Christmas and televises all of them. Practices for these pre-Christmas bowls almost always overlap with final exams.

Sign On San Diego explains that the Ohio State Buckeyes were invited to play in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on January 1, 1962 but the school turned down the invitation because the game would have interfered with academics—classes on campus started on January 2. A half-century later, Ohio State accepted an invite to play in the January 4 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans despite the fact that classes begin on campus January 3.

In 2009, Oregon President David Frohnmayer, then chairman of the Bowl Championship Series Presidential Oversight Committee, stated that he favored the college bowl system because an alternative playoff system would “disrespect our academic calendars.”

Sign On San Diego reports that 12 of the 14 teams playing in bowl games before Christmas had some sort of scheduling conflict with final exams and practices for bowl games. College athletes have grown used to receiving special treatment because of hectic sports schedules, and bowl games make this even more necessary.

Schools and coaches decide how to juggle the schedule. It’s become increasingly difficult. Navy head coach Ken Niumalaloto had to cancel a practice earlier this week because of an exam conflict. “It makes it really tough, but we feel fortunate to go to a bowl game,” he said.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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