2014… “I WANT FOUR TEAMS IN! At least then teams with arguments won’t get snubbed! Plus, that way there are still bowl games of merit to be played!
2015… “LET’S MAKE IT 8! This is better but there still isn’t enough fairness in it! Plus if you keep it to eight you’ll still get those other bowl games in and satisfy the other teams.
2016… “SERIOUSLY. ENOUGH. EXPAND THE PLAYOFFS AND END THE BOWLS! It’s not like the players or fans want them anyways! Ask me, just an excuse for family vacations and something for me to poke at on the television with my paid holiday time-off!
It took three short years for a great impact to be made to a long-held tradition that was Holiday Bowl season! Now, its livelihood lays heavily in question following the NCAA’s Division I College Football Playoff birth in 2014. (1) The introduction was like when a sitcom adds a new quirky character to spice the show up, you forget all about the original quirky guy/girl. The CFP WAS/IS essentially that with the Bowl season format. The new quirky character to replace and help us forget the old one. Every now and again you see something that reminds you why you love the old character but in the end you realize the change was for the overall better of the show. That still does not keep the people who fell in love with the original oddball character from being loyal to an almost die-hard’s point of view! Unfortunately, the new characters warrant new dialogue among the existing characters and can change the overall format and outlook the show takes in general. In three short years the CFP has managed to be that new quirky character that has ostracized the quirky character that was Bowl Season and even changed the format to our favorite autumn seasonal show of College Football.
So far, Leonard Fournette of Louisiana State University and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford University have been the biggest characters to opt for the new dialogue of skipping their school’s respected bowl game bids and the explanations as to why follows the bread crumbs back to the introduction of the CFP.
Since the CFP was conjured, there feels to be less reward in a trophy that reads Belk Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl and even some would argue Cotton Bowl. The lure just isn’t there for the players to be as jazzed about a Music City Bowl invite because of the College Football Playoff that has brought with it a mentality of “Playoff or Bust” for big collegiate names like Fournette and McCaffrey.
Before the playoff, the bowl game was something made of respect. Something that players participated in to either go out strong on their college careers, present a case for their program’s strength heading into next year or prove they deserved more credit out of the current season, and the results were some pretty quirky and ridiculously entertaining finishes! For instance, the Boise State vs. Oklahoma epic Fiesta Bowl of 2007! (2) Not to mention it was one final chance for players to prove their stock as NFL prospects before the oncoming spring’s NFL Draft. But for stand-outs like McCaffrey and Fournette, since the addition of the playoff, games like the Sun Bowl and the Citrus Bowl lack beneficial NFL Vitamin D! (3,4) Instead, they see the bowl games as added jeopardy to that very things.
Essentially, this is causing what many college football purists have feared when you mention a “Playoff or Bust” mentality within players. Certainly, each participating team has a few players who actually look forward to their not most glamorous bowl game. Say, you’re a member of the Indiana University Hoosiers and trying to win the school their first bowl game in history to literally make history! (5) Maybe some players just love the “Swag Bags” that each bowl game awards the players with. (6) It could be a change for some to play close to home and let the bowl game double as a family reunion of sorts. And maybe for some players it’s just a chance to enjoy a break from their cold weather surroundings while playing the sport they love in a setting like the Bahammas for the Popeye’s Bowl *cough… Eastern Michigan! (7)
Unfortunately, not all players agree with the benefits of a bowl game and see the bowl game as a possible career-damning game no thanks to previous injury examples highlighted by Jaylon Smith of Notre Dame University in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. (8)
Yes, there are many reasons to disagree with collegiate athletes adding wear and tear to their bodies via an extra overall “meaningless” game but what did these student athletes exactly think they were signing up for when they chose to participate in College Football? Fact is, they could just as easily be injured performing NFL Draft workouts and get dealt an empty payout with nothing to show for their college days in terms of trophies even if it is from the Foster Farms Bowl that was played in poorly attended NFL stadium along with no NFL future.
One can’t blame McCaffrrey and Fournette, who have seen this year as football purgatory awaiting for their NFL eligibility to clear. But that doesn’t justify things for the diehards that are witnessing the death of the once beloved Bowl Mania Season fade before their eyes!
McCaffrey and Fournette are sitting out of lesser known bowls that don’t have great prestige associated with them. But, how long before it’s players skipping the Rose Bowl or the Cotton Bowl because, “what’s the point of it’s not for the National Championship?”
The College Football Playoff evolved from the BCS National Championship which was an isolated affair between two teams and ONLY two in four different feature games with one understandably being for the true National Championship. The NCAA chose to re-format it to accommodate those that felt excluded from National Championship rights. What may go unrealized is that the idea of the four BCS Bowl games layout it gave those teams dying respect to say maybe we were good enough for a Championship. Now, it’s simply a process of elimination to defy that a team is not more than it is.
At the end of the day the NCAA has gone with a “the more the merrier” viewpoint and finding out that’s far from the reality. All the College Football Playoff has done instead is get more people complaining that they deserve a shot at the title and fewer people interested in the Bowl games that helped generate so much revenue for the sport. Sadly, they’ve made something better but at the some time made something worse.
Hopefully, the Bowl Season can find a way to co-exist with the CFP. That way we can have our Holiday cookies and milk too, indulging in Holiday hibernation watching those marathons of football games that we’re only vested in because we gambled on them in the employee bowl pick bracket without asking ourselves what a growing amount of the participants in the field already are; “Why are we playing this game anyhow?”
I have a feeling even the NCAA doesn’t have the answer for these participants. Carrying with it the fear of why the question was presented in the first place which is; the birth of College Football Playoff!