Bloated Bowl Season Cheapens College Football
With 33 meaningless bowl games so far involving numerous mediocre teams and players who should not have been allowed on any bowl gridirons, there has not been much holiday cheer for the good old college football fan this winter.
Now comes bowl No. 34 tonight, that long-awaited and eagerly anticipated Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco matching Boston College against Nevada at Reno. Can hardly wait.
Then, finally, tomorrow night we get to the one game that is supposed to count. It is the Bowl Championship Series’ 35th and last bowl, the BCS version of a National Championship contest pitting Auburn against Oregon. Will all those folks other than Auburn and Oregon alums and undergrads who give a hoot, please raise their hands? Oh, come on, there must be one or two interested observers out there somewhere.
The BCS cartel and its stubbornly unresponsive members continue their foolishly bloated bowl season without a true championship playoff that would make much more sense while the National Collegiate Athletic Association and some of its members have shown how hypocritical they can be with a couple of the most self-serving penalty rulings in the 105-year history of the NCAA.
One of these decisions permitted five primary Ohio State players to compete in last Tuesday night’s Sugar Bowl when they should have been banned from the competition against Arkansas. Four of these athletes made key plays as the Buckeyes hung on to beat the Razorbacks, 31-26, in a game that Arkansas probably would have won had this quintet been disqualified from the game as it should have been.
But the NCAA, Ohio State’s coach, Jim Tressel, and Ohio State’s president, Elwood Gordon Gee, plus Big Ten, Sugar Bowl and BCS officials failed to do the right thing when they permitted Ohio State’s quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, running back, Dan Herron, wide receiver, DeVier Posey; offensive tackle, Mike Adams, and backup defensive end, Solomon Thomas, to play.
All five had been found guilty of selling hundreds of dollars worth of team jerseys, rings and other trinkets and awards earned as Ohio State athletes. They also received improper benefits in the form of free tattoos from a Columbus, Ohio, tattoo parlor. All of these actions are violations of NCAA and Big Ten rules.
Oh, but do not think these five players will not be severely punished. They have been barred from the first five Ohio State games next fall by the harsh hand of the NCAA. Despite pledging to return for the 2011 regular season, one or more of these five players may well be playing for the National Football League by then.
Ohio State may have won the Sugar Bowl game but, in the process, lost considerable respect among many of those who care for what is left of major college football.
The second poor ruling by the NCAA came two months ago when it claimed Auburn’s quarterback, Cam Newton, knew absolutely nothing about his father’s attempts to have Mississippi State pay Cam nearly $180,000 if he would transfer to that university. As a result, Cam Newton was permitted to play in the Southeastern Conference title game that Auburn won and tomorrow night’s BCS title game against Oregon.
Newton, winner of this season’s Heisman Trophy, started his collegiate career at the University of Florida in 2007. There were reports that Newton was involved in academic cheating at Florida on three occasions. Also, he was arrested on Oct. 16, 2008, and charged with stealing a fellow student’s laptop computer and obstruction of justice. Those charges were later dropped and Newton left Florida after the 2008 fall semester, transferring to Blinn Junior College in Texas.
Despite the actions by his father, Cecil Newton, Cam Newton opted for Auburn after his junior college year in Texas.
Thus there are some who wonder why a player who may have cheated, may have stolen a computer, may not be progressing scholastically in college, and had a father peddling his athletic skills to Mississippi State, gets a free pass to play for the National Championship tomorrow night.
Also, one wonders whether or not Newton is truly worthy of the Heisman Trophy, which is billed as a symbol of what is good about intercollegiate football.
Certainly one is innocent until proven guilty. But if you believe a son who has been close to his father all his life did not know that the father was hawking his talents to the highest bidder, then there is a bridge in Brooklyn you might want to buy. Also, why did Newton, heir apparent to Tim Tebow as Florida’s quarterback, leave that university if he had done no wrong?
Prior to Ohio State winning with a tainted lineup, five other members of the Big Ten had anything but a Happy New Year eight days ago when each of the five lost a bowl game on Jan. 1. Northwestern, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan were soundly whipped with Michigan suffering a 52-14 trouncing by Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.
The fifth of these Big Ten losers, Wisconsin, came close on New Year’s Day before losing to undefeated Texas Christian, 21-19, in a good Rose Bowl game. The Badgers suffered from quite a few coaching errors.
TCU was one of those teams that Ohio State’s president, E. Gordon Gee, disparagingly referred to as “the Little Sisters of the Poor,” claiming his Buckeyes never lower themselves to playing such inconsequential teams.
Boise State, another target of Gee’s remarks last month, won its bowl game by beating a very good Utah, 26-3, in the Maaco Bowl, Dec. 22.
Actually, the Little Sisters of the Poor and their founder, St. Jeanne Jugan of France, are much more highly respected than Ohio State officials will ever be.
The Michigan loss put the final nail in the coffin for Rich Rodriguez, who was fired last Wednesday, after three seasons as the Wolverines’ coach.
The misnamed Big Ten, which currently consists of 11 institutions and will add a 12th, the University of Nebraska, next season, actually had a 3-5 record in bowls this season as Iowa and Illinois beat Missouri and Baylor, respectively, in the Insight and Texas Bowl games. But Nebraska was also a bowl loser, beaten by Washington in the Holiday Bowl.
In essence, the major college football postseason that used to be interesting with less than a dozen bowl games now consists of way too many games, with 70 of the 120 major teams playing in a bowl. This means that teams with 6-6 or 7-5 records get to compete in things with names like the Humanitarian Bowl, the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, the Champ Sports Bowl, Little Caesars Bowl, the TicketCity Bowl and “etcetera, etcetera” as the King of Siam said.
Television viewer numbers are also dropping considerably since ESPN has contracted for the great majority of these bowl games from 2010 to 2014. This has something to do with fewer cable outlets in homes than broadcast outlets, although it can also have to do with a saturation of uninteresting contests.
Too many bowl games and preferential treatment for players with questionable qualifications for bowls add to the ugly image of greedy and poorly managed major college football operations.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His e-mail is email@example.com.
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