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The ‘Take Your Pick’ Bowl

The game plan was well developed. Hungry for victory no matter the flavor of the opponent, the offensive strikes probed the objective with quick, decisive moves and devoured the competition. In a matter of moments, the Cereal Bowl was mine! In light of the glut of upcoming college football games, I’m a bit surprised my

The game plan was well developed. Hungry for victory no matter the flavor of the opponent, the offensive strikes probed the objective with quick, decisive moves and devoured the competition. In a matter of moments, the Cereal Bowl was mine!

In light of the glut of upcoming college football games, I’m a bit surprised my breakfast table bowl game didn’t receive more recognition. After all, the television cameras will be entering your homes with 39 bowl game encounters over the next few weeks — culminating with the NCAA National Championship Game in the New Orleans Sugar Bowl on January 13. When you consider this all-encompassing bowl menu will include such title treats as the Cure, Gasparilla, Cheez-It, Camping World, Idaho Potato, and how could we overlook the Lending Tree Bowl, a tasty morning match-up featuring Raisin Bran vs. Cheerios would surely draw some interest.

Obviously, the four-team national playoff format featuring LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma will command the attention of even the most casual football fan. It is an historic quartet featuring three 13-0 conference champions and a one-loss Oklahoma team that brings to the party the skills of Alabama transfer, QB Jalen Hurts. They are four deserving teams that excite their fan bases and will fill the coffers of the television networks airing their games.

Yes, indeed, those traditional Orange, Cotton, and Rose Bowl games are still a staple for New Year’s viewing, but the proliferation of so many ‘who-cares’ bowls could soon include an indigestion bowl. The 39 bowl games mean that 78 of the 129 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Division-1 member schools will be going bowling. That equates to 60.4% of the eligible schools taking part in the post-season game glut.

FBS eligible schools come from 11 major conferences. They include the ACC, American, Big 12, Big 10, C-USA, Independent, MAC, Mountain West, PAC-12, SEC and Sun Belt conferences. The selection process of which teams go to which bowls is defined by a detailed procedure linking conference teams to specific bowls. It was a long-standing requirement that teams had to compile at least a .500 record to go bowling.

But as the number of bowl games has increased in recent years, the governing body of the NCAA has lost control over the proliferation of bowl games. With so many bowl games, there have been instances where there have not been enough teams with .500 records to fill the needed slots. During the past three seasons, there were 81 bowl-eligible teams in 2018, 76 in 2017, and 79 is 2016, all providing more teams then were needed.

In 2012 and again in 2015, the bowl system could not fill their games with .500 teams. The NCAA ‘addressed’ the problem by allowing 5-7 teams to go bowling. That was the only solution as legally, the NCAA couldn’t cap the number of bowls. In 2016 the NCAA placed a moratorium on the creation of any new bowl games. That moratorium ends in 2020 when three more bowl games will bring the total to 42 with the addition of Myrtle Beach, Boston (at Fenway Park), and Los Angeles at the new SoFi Stadium. That will require 84 teams to fill the slots.

By the way — hats off to the PAC-12 Conference for their common sense in invoking a ruling that their teams reach the six wins or .500 level to take part in a bowl game. Indeed, the regular season should count for something.

Statistics reveal that bowl attendance is down in recent years, but that doesn’t make much difference to TV rights-holders. ESPN televises the vast majority of the bowl games, and the TV ratings are consistent and certainly better than what other programming otherwise would be available in December. While there may be too many bowls, which ones should be eliminated? Every bowl is serving some purpose.

I’ve heard a few grumbles from Penn State fans who were hoping for a Rose Bowl game. Under the bowl selection systems, that ‘hope’ disappeared with the loss to Minnesota. Wisconsin beat those same Gophers and advanced to the Big Ten title game. But the Cotton Bowl is not a bad consolation prize. They are favored against Memphis State, and fans traveling to Texas will be treated to a special place in AT&T Stadium. If you are making the trip, make sure to book a VIP Tour of the stadium. The two-hour tour is worth the cost.

Among the bowl participants, Arizona State University will be taking on Florida State December 31 at the Sun Bowl in El Paso. Despite finishing 7-5 including two late-season wins against PAC-12 champion Oregon and rival Arizona, coach Herm Edwards fired the bulk of his offensive staff that included Warrior Run graduate and long-time college coach Charlie Fisher.

Fisher, the Sun Devils’ wide receiver coach and former assistant at Penn State under Bill O’Brien, joined Edwards’ staff at the beginning of the 2018 season.

In a recent communication, Fisher told me, “I’m good. This is a crazy business. I’ve been blessed beyond measure. It has been a great ride.”

He also revealed he had purchased a home in the Lewisburg area and will be coming back in January, excited for the next chapter in his life.

Enjoying the upcoming bowl season, wherever you’re rooting interest may lie.

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