Bowled Over: Unless, of course, it's your team

Published on Monday, 31 December 2012 23:15 - Written by Joe Buie

I’ve been just a casual observer of the college football bowl season, and what I’ve seen in quick glances are more empty seats than people. Only four of 19 bowls through Saturday posted an attendance figure larger than the 48,379 that turned out for a high school game Dec. 22 in Texas. That was the Class 5A Division I state championship between Allen and Houston Lamar at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Last season, bowl attendance was down 2.1 percent through the first 31 games. TV ratings also sagged.

Besides poor crowds, there’s quite a bit of mediocrity parading on our TV sets.

These 6-6 bowl qualifiers have been weighing heavily on my mind.

The fact that a bowl team could finish with a losing record just doesn’t feel right.

It didn’t feel right at Purdue or North Carolina State, either. They fired their head coaches on their way to playing in a bowl, which seems strange to me. Maybe those schools should have declined their bowl invites if they thought their seasons weren’t worth bringing the coach back.

To be exact, there are 12 teams with 6-6 records bowling for dollars, and even a 6-7 Georgia Tech, which was granted a waiver by the NCAA while 9-3 Louisiana Tech was left out.

Unless your alma mater or otherwise favorite team is involved, the early part of the bowl season is fairly worthless.

I’ve also been on the other side of the fence, however, looking at the bowl season through rose-colored glasses.

Some of my favorite memories as a sports fan are from the North Texas Mean Green’s four straight New Orleans Bowl appearances (2001-04). I attended three of the four at the Superdome and had a blast in The Big Easy.

The Mean Green’s “Glory Days” meshed perfectly with an increase in bowl games, as UNT played in the inaugural New Orleans Bowl despite a losing record. That was OK, I told myself, because the Mean Green had “earned” it by winning the Sun Belt Conference title.

North Texas was the first team to take advantage of an NCAA waiver allowing a conference champion to play in a bowl without the mandated six wins.

Some people say that having 35 bowls is too many, and they are right. Unless, of course, it’s your team that’s benefiting.

In the “everyone’s a winner” era, and when too many high school teams make the playoffs, we shouldn’t be surprised that the bowl games exploded from 20 in 1997, to 32 in 2006 and now 35.