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Football Bowl Association’s Challenge: Make Bowls Great Again

17 May, 2017

By: Michael Popke

The challenge facing the Football Bowl Association’s executive committee is “Make Bowls Great Again.”

Or so the joke goes.

“We’re at a critical time with the bowls,” Wright Waters, executive director of the FBA, told USA Today last month at the organization’s annual executive committee meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

According to the paper:

Attendance and TV ratings were down slightly in 2016, though both of those might simply be an extension of the declines seen for all of college football and similarly in other sports. Sponsorships are becoming harder to land and keep. Tickets are more difficult to sell. One bowl (Poinsettia) was shuttered in January, and another (Miami Beach Bowl) is moving from Florida to Texas.

But the biggest shockwave to run through the system might have come in December, when standout running backs Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey chose to sit out the Citrus Bowl and the Sun Bowl, respectively. Both players had been injured during the regular season. Both had the support of their coaches when they decided not to play, saying they were focusing on their professional futures. … [B]oth players were among the top eight picks in the NFL draft.

The College Football Playoff, implemented in 2014 in which four teams play in two semifinal games, with the winners advancing to the College Football Playoff National Championship, has undoubtedly impacted the significance of other bowls — rendering some of them as “meaningless” in eyes of some fans. The term irks Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff. “Those bowls are not meaningless for the players,” he told USA Today.

During the 2016-17 college football season, 40 bowls were on the schedule from mid-December to Jan. 2. Which is why 5-7 teams found themselves playing in bowls in recent years. “They were needed because there weren’t enough 6-6 teams to fill all 80 bowl slots,” USA Today reports. “Some have floated the idea of raising the standard for bowl eligibility to 7-5, or at least ending the practice of granting waivers for 5-7 teams. Others say the number of bowls must decrease. … There’s no easy fix.”

“We’re not deciding whether things are good or bad,” Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin said. “We’re talking about degrees of good. But things have changed. Not every situation is going to be like it was 30 years ago when there were 15 bowls and it was really unique to get to go to a bowl. I hate the phrase ‘watered down,’ but it has become much more commonplace — but that may not be a bad thing.”

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