May 2, 2006

Too many bowl games?

'Twas the folks at Baskin-Robbins who first brought us 31 flavors.

For that I not only salute them, but patronize them. Frequently.

But this is not a tale about ice cream. It's about something that should make you scream. It makes I scream.

In case you missed it, the NCAA approved a slew of new bowl games late last week that takes the total to 31, with a 32nd game pending.

That means more than half of the teams in Division I-A could play in the postseason. Welcome to the National Hockey League.

How to explain such nonsense? Perhaps the NCAA's postseason football licensing subcommittee was so bloated on "Truffle in Paradise" (a real Baskin-Robbins' flavor) that it had "brain freeze."

"It is this subcommittee's goal to provide the best experience for student-athletes, coaches and staffs, and the fans and to support the long-term viability of the bowl system," Mark Womack, the subcommittee chairman, said in a written statement. "We had to make some very difficult decisions, but we feel they are decisions made in the interests of a successful postseason."

Very difficult decisions? Like what? You just approved new games in Toronto, Birmingham and New Mexico. If you can rub two pink sampling spoons together you can play host to a bowl game. A friend and I thought about starting a bowl game but his back yard just missed the seating capacity requirement.

Of all of the things this world needs more of, bowl games do not immediately spring to mind. As a matter of fact, bowl games would rank so far down that list as to fall between Starbucks and Ryan Seacrest.

Eighteen of last year's 28 bowl games saw decreased attendance. The drop-off for six of those 18 was by more than 15 percent.

Now comes the Birmingham Bowl, which essentially pits the sixth choice from Conference USA against the fifth choice from the Big East. Let's see, last year the Big East didn't have five bowl-eligible teams. C-USA did, with three teams finishing with the ultra-sexy 6-5 mark. Anybody in 'Bama up for a Rutgers-Houston tussle come Dec. 23?

I have nothing against bowl games. The first college football game I ever went to was the 1972 Orange Bowl. I worked at the newspaper in Jacksonville, Fla., for 10 years and thus covered several Gator Bowls. I was the college sports editor at The (Nashville) Tennessean for five years and directed coverage of the Music City Bowl.

But really, 31 bowl games? Enough is enough. Isn't this a little like sending the ice cream scoop into that gallon container one more time? Don't you always regret it later?

Maybe the NCAA was trying to help bowl games find title sponsors. Hmm, 31. Anyone call the folks at Baskin-Robbins yet?

And NCAA, please put that thought of dialing Heinz out of your mind right now.

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