Posted on: January 7, 2009 12:37 am

Dr. Bowl Love, Or How I Became Anti-CFB Playoff

Cynics, Rebels, Contrarians, lend me your eyes: I am 100% for the college bowl system!

So here are totally random but still relevant bullet points on this bowl vs. playoff deal:

  • We don't have a God-given right to consensus, national champions in every athletic endeavor imaginable (and especially in those where 100 or more teams all over the map make up the overall field).
  • Bowls weren't started to determine champions.  They were started as "chamber of commerce" initiatives in warm-weather locales to encourage snow-bound pigskin devotees to follow the sun for a vacation.  And secondly to give deserving collegiate football programs a reward for a good season.  And many of the bowls are part of larger festivals like the Orange Bowl and others have college basketball games, parades, tennis tournaments, etc.  They are sources of civic pride and commerce and now tradition in places with established bowl games.  Seasonal employment and tourism are increased.  These are all good things. 
  • TV revenues and bowl payouts help college athletics as a whole.  One simple way to say this is that there wouldn't be a whole lot of scholarship athletes in "Olympic Sports" at the college level without these revenues.  Remember, it used to be acceptable to say "non-revenue sports" when referring to college field hockey, soccer, fencing et al.
  • Are there too many bowl games?  I don't know and I don't like answering questions with questions but I will to annoy you, so maybe a better question to ask first is: "Are there too many division 1 football programs?"
  • OK, I'll admit it, I'm a Vanderbilt Commodores grad and fan.  So without the glut of bowl games, I probably wouldn't have been able to spend my New Year's Eve celebrating our 'historic' win with fellow alums in Nashvegas.  But the long drive back North to my current home got me thinking a lot about the bowl system and what it means to us, the alumni of programs that, let's face it, are probably never going to sniff this elusive "national" title.  OK, from the pure football perspective, it is a month of practice that otherwise wouldn't have been available.  And an additional national TV appearance in a semi-exclusive window (while most games are on in their own window, the Music City Bowl on ESPN and the Sun Bowl on CBS were overlapping a bit).  And I wouldn't be shocked if this exposure from a bowl game can really do some intangible things for a college football program.  But moreover, the non-football benefits.  A galvanized alumni for sure.  I mean, I've heard from some long-forgotten friends in this last week.  It's been great and I can only imagine that the University will capitalize on this both from a financial and spiritual/emotional standpoint.  And bowl games will also attract all kinds of students to a school, not just student-athletes.  There's bound to be a few HS students sitting at home watching ESPN on New Year's Eve Day, saying to themselves, hmm, Vanderbilt?  or even hmm, Boston College?  Tearing all of this up for the sake of some still-fictitious "national title" would be a real harm.
  • Isn't it better when 34 teams get to finish their season on a high note instead of one team, assuming the playoff all but eliminates the importance of the bowl system?
  • Conference titles are what teams really aim for.  Ask Steve Sprier.  He'll tell you the South Carolina Gamecocks goals, same as they were when he was with the Florida Gators.  Win our division, beat all our rivals, win our conference championship.  And if we do all that and we're blessed with a shot at whatever they call the national title, then bye golly we'll do our best to take advantage of that wonderful opportunity.
  • And regarding the above...if you are an alumnus or alumnae of a school that has a football program, odds are you care more about beating your rivals and doing well in your important league games than you do about some polls and computer picks?  I know I do and I think deep down most agree.  I viewed the bowl game as a reward, a chance to celebrate and have a good time and gather with fellow alums and good Vandy fans.
  • I have a hunch that some people that really have this hang-up with a playoff and a clear-cut, objective way to reach a "national champion," may not have even gone to a school with D1 football and really just want this playoff because it's how it's done elsewhere.  I started this off by saying we have no right to clear-cut champions.  Ambiguity is okay, and healthy, in fact.  And when you have so many teams, it's impossible no matter how you plan it.  Even the basketball tournament has flaws in the selections, seedings, automatic qualifiers and assignment of regions.
  • Moreover, football kind of has it perfect in the NCAA from a publicity standpoint.  How many people do you think say they are college basketball fans but don't really even watch a game in its entirety until Tournament time in March? Seriously, I'll bet there are more than a few.  Casual fans don't even know college basketball is televised until mid-March!  On the other hand, the college football regular season is in itself a de facto playoff.  Most CFB fans are tuned from August to January, and the really insane ones follow recruiting all year round!  From the national-title picture, a loss in the last week of August or first week of September, and you may be out.  Lose again and it's pretty much thanks for playin', holmes.  So in essence, there's almost more drama and suspense without the playoff, than there would be if we had one.  But it takes a bit of a leap, some against-the-grain thinking and a lot of devotion to college football Saturdays throughout the fall to become a follower of this philosophy.  But once you do, trust me, playoff won't even be part of your vocabulary

Sean Walker's 52-yard catch helps set up Bryant Hahnfeldt's second FG of the first quarter. (AP)

  • Lastly on this subject, ask anyone who's a Vandy grad/fan, or Florida Atlantic Owls, or Rice Owls or Iowa Hawkeyes or Mississippi Rebels, among many other schools this bowl season and they will tell you this is why we like it just the way it is.  There are compelling stories among the players, coaches, families, alumni, students, faculty, staff and general communities of all 68 competing colleges and universities in the 2008-2009 bowl games; and also in the 34 host cities and communities.  The bowls and their committee members provide the forum to tell all of their stories and add to their lives in more ways than most people would think to know.  To sacrifice all of this for the sake of satisfying the public's misguided outcry for what ultimately is a bogus national title seems kind of selfish and narrow-sighted.  And we all know what happens when the general public is appeased anyway: they get what they want and still cry for more.  I mean, if a playoff happens--shudder the thought that it does--there will almost certainly be calls that team(s) were left out and it still isn't fair.
  No one ever guaranteed us that anything had to be fair, folks.  If there is one thing that college will prepare you for in life, it's that.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com