When I was little, I always waited to see which SEC team would be in the Rose Bowl & could never figure out why it was televised nationally along with the Rose Parade. That was until I learned about the conference tie-ins.
This isn’t a particularly new idea. We wrote of it last year as well. But with a new playoff, a new rotation of the biggest bowls, and an almost entirely new lineup of bowl tie-ins coming your way in 2014, we felt it was once again time to push our idea for a “bowl draft.”
Now, first of all, it’s not going to happen. Conferences like having built-in bowl slots (i.e., money) for their schools. And bowls committees like being able to focus their marketing efforts toward predetermined partners. So this theory just isn’t likely to become a reality.
That said, considering the following:
* The new six-bowl playoff rotation — which will include four bowls and eight teams not in the actual playoff each year – is likely to cause confusion over who’s going where in a given season.
* The SEC has had chats with the Belk, Gator, Meineke Car Care, Music City and Outback Bowls about creating a formula that would allow the league and the bowls to place SEC teams in those games. Overall the SEC’s bowl prospects look quite messy at this point.
* The ACC is reportedly leaning toward sending its second best team — if that squad is not in the playoff – to the Russell Athletic Bowl. But John Swofford’s league has also talked with the Belk, Gator and Music City Bowls about sending its teams to those sites to face SEC squads.
* The Big Ten is pushing its revamped “national” bowl lineup which stretches from coast to coast. That conference is also planning to get involved — in some way — with the selection process in order to prevent its teams from having to travel to the same locations too often.
Yuck. Just give us some sanity, college football bigwigs.
On the same day that the football playoff and big bowl participants are announced by football’s new selection committee, kick off a bowl draft. Dump conference tie-ins altogether. Just line up the bowls from the highest-paying to the lowest-paying and let them select whoever the heck they want to bring into their communities. The best-paying bowl picks first. The game with the smallest payout gets the last selections.
At that point, it would be up to the bowls to create interesting matchups. They could pick teams whose fans travel well to please their local business partners. Or they could select squads based on national rankings or national name in order to grab high television ratings and please their corporate sponsors. The bowls could go in any direction they liked.
Such a system would please most fans, too. Instead of watching the same SEC squads knock heads with the same Big Ten and ACC teams in the same handful of bowls each year, Southeastern Conference fans could see their favorite schools shipped to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego to face a Pac-12 team or the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City to face a Big XII squad. That would add some interest back into the bowl season.
Imagine a bowl drafting Texas and Texas A&M for a showdown. All of a sudden the Witch Hazel Bowl in Lubbock wouldn’t look quite so dreary, eh? (That’s not a real bowl, though you know it could be.)
The powers-that-be — as detailed above — are trying to pump some life into the postseason by creating bowl swaps and built-in rotations. But rotations only lead to confusion and frustration. “Let’s see, this is the 11th year of Jupiter’s 12-year cycle around the Sun and New Year’s Day falls on a Wednesday… so it’s the ACC that gets a slot in the Dutchmasters Cigar Bowl this year.”
With a draft there’s no such confusion. Sure, there would still be bickering over why a bowl took Team X or Team Y. And coaches and fans would still find multiple reasons to complain. But at least the system would be easily understood. “The Black Label Beer Bowl picked us.” End of story.
Yeah, yeah, we know. At the end of the draft two teams from the same conference might be forced into playing one another. So be it. Better that than some goofed out formula to determine which teams from the same leagues will matchup in the same four or five bowls each postseason.
And if anyone’s worried that the bowls would cut under-the-table deals based on schools’ willingness to guarantee ticket sales — and the bowls would — there’s a simple a solution. Any bowl caught negotiating ticket sales with a school prior to the draft would go to the bottom of the draft the following year. Think Auburn wouldn’t turn in the Blue Star Ointment Bowl if the Tigers thought they had been shafted out of a bowl slot because Alabama had promised to purchase more bowl tickets?
Again, this isn’t going to happen, but it sure as hell deserves consideration. In fact, if put to a vote, it’s almost a guarantee that the majority of college football fans would favor a day-long, televised bowl draft over a system based on conference tie-ins and impossible to remember rotations.
Want to make the bowl season exciting again? Open up all of the bowls (outside of the six bowls in the playoff rotation, of course) to each and every college football team in the country. Anyone could go anywhere, based on the bowl draft.
It would be simple. It would be fun. And it would force bowls to pay out more and more cash to improve their draft positioning each year.
Hey, wait a second. More cash, huh?
Perhaps a bowl draft has a better shot at becoming a reality than we initially thought.