May 1, 2010

Roundtable: Should losing teams play in bowls?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask members of the coverage staff for their opinions about a topic in the sport. This week, we'll have two roundtables, one today and one Sunday. Here is today's question:

There will be 35 bowls this season, meaning 70 teams will be needed to fill the slots. Some NCAA officials have said that -- if need be -- teams with 5-7 records may have to be chosen to play in bowls. Your thoughts?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Losing teams in bowl games is how can I express this with tact? I can't: It's stupid. How many times have anti-playoff shills gone on and on about how the bowls are a reward for a good season? Well, now they may be rewarding teams for losing.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
This is further evidence of a bloated bowl system that continues to lose credibility. A watered-down bowl pool that could potentially feature 5-7 teams is akin to giving a trophy to every kid on the Little League team: None of the trophies are special if everyone gets one. Instead of continuing to add bowls, perhaps the NCAA should just allow every school to play 13 regular-season games. The real winners in this are the organizers of all of these middling bowls no one cares about. They are able to create a meaningless bowl and still make money by securing a TV deal and forcing the "lucky" bowl participants to buy tickets.

David Fox's answer:
If you think this development is shameful now, I can't wait until a bowl news conference when a 5-7 team accepts a bid to play a middling 6-6 team. I can't wait to see the bowl organizers talk about how excited they are to have Team X and what a hard-luck losing season they had. Even Lou Holtz, who as a coach could talk up any overmatched opponent, would have trouble selling those kinds of games. How would this 5-7 team be selected? Will some programs retain some dignity and decline the bowl invitation? Who will be the first program to accept a bowl bid with a losing record? If you think this looks absurd on paper, just wait until it happens.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I've long thought that there were too many bowls, and this is further proof. A team with a losing record has gone to a bowl before -- a 5-6 North Texas team won the Sun Belt in 2001 and the league and the New Orleans Bowl won special dispensation from the NCAA to allow the Mean Green to play in the bowl. Frankly, not many cared. But I think it would be different if it were Big Six conference schools going to bowls with under-.500 records -- and those would be the teams "benefiting" from the NCAA's largesse in this case.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I've always been hesitant to join the chorus of criticism surrounding the growing number of bowl games because I've always figured it's a matter of supply and demand. If you think there are too many bowls, stop watching them until the marketplace corrects itself. But even I must agree that we've reached a tipping point when we have so many bowls that we might be handing out postseason berths to teams with losing records. I wouldn't mind at all if the NCAA placed a limit at 30 bowls and also set a rule that prevented any 6-6 team from getting invited until every program with a winning record already had earned a postseason date.

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