I'm off to Tampa this weekend for the Outback Bowl between the Georgia Bulldogs and Wisconsin Badgers. The game, unlike the sponsoring steakhouse chain, will come without the bloomin' onion. With a ticket price of only $55, the low end of the bowl spectrum, one can't expect too many extras.
The Outback is one of 28 bowl games played to conclude the college football season. For my fancy, that's about two times more than there should be. There are 117 Division 1-A football-playing schools. That means that before playing a down in September, half of these colleges know if they can manage to squeeze out six wins, they'll be bowling during the holidays.
This year South Carolina, Clemson and Akron were the only three schools that were bowl eligible that did not go to a bowl game. For the Gamecocks and Tigers, it was by choice, to punish their players for brawling with one another. If Clemson had lost that game, they would not have been bowl eligible anyway.
Examples of schools that made a bowl in spite of themselves include Cincinnati, who lost their last regular season game 70-7. Notre Dame and Florida both fired their coaches for not winning enough, yet they won enough to bowl. Georgia Tech and Syracuse squared off before 22,000 fans in the Champs Bowl, with more than a few of those fans hoping their school would fire the coach the next day.
Bowl games are like inflation. They just keep growing and growing. Organizers of the Peach Bowl are trying to get the NCAA to approve another bowl game for Atlanta, as a prelude to the Peach. They are trying to copy Florida's Citrus Association that sponsors the Champs Bowl a week prior to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. It's all about drawing fans to spend money and rent hotel rooms. So what if the teams are mediocre?
Since there is no playoff system, my topic for next week by the way, bowl games were originally meant to reward coaches and players of teams that had outstanding seasons. The definition of outstanding season has become as watered down as discipline in school.
Coaches like having humpteen dozen bowls because it increases the likelihood of using bowl trips as a resume builder as well as keeping the fans and administration off their backs. It also provides extra practice time for next year's team.
Players like bowls because they get to travel to locations that they may normally never visit. They also get paid a per diem if their school allows them to transport themselves to the bowl site. If they carpool, they can make a little extra cash without violating NCAA rules. The bowls also shower them with gifts like wind suits, watches, cameras and video games.
So the question is, Walker, what do you consider an outstanding season?
As an avid Georgia Bulldog fan, I for one could not justify a trip to a lower tier bowl with a record of 6-5 as an indication of an outstanding season. If the Dogs were 6-5 we'd be howling for Coach Richt's behind as we were headed to the Liquid Plummer Toilet Bowl or the Batesville Casket Bowl somewhere in Mississippi.
Many of our fans are mad because we lost two this year. Some feel that Georgia not playing further south in the Orange Bowl for the National Championship indicates total failure, yet the school sold 13,000 tickets to the lowly Outback. Go figure.
Football is a relative sport. Relative mostly to the teams you play and your record from last season. Some years six wins for certain schools may indicate an outstanding season, but not if you only beat cupcakes.
You get what you pay for and UGA fans are paying at a higher rate than six wins. In my mind if we can't be in the top five of the SEC, the only reward we deserve is a swift kick in the pants and an extra month to recruit without preparing for a trip to Shreveport or Nashville. We go to Nashville every other year to play in the Vanderbilt Bowl as it is.