Remember when a bowl game used to mean something?

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Forgive me for not swooning over the U football team becoming bowl-eligible last week with a win over Colorado State. The Utes did in fact hit the “magical number” of six wins, as Kyle Whittingham referred to it, but let’s not forget how Utah reached that number–by beating Northern Arizona, a Division 1-AA team.

The expansion of the college football season to 12 games has given schools an extra contest–a freebie, if you will–to pick up that “magical” sixth victory.

With the recent addition of a national championship game and a bowl game in Canada (the International Bowl), there are now 32 bowl games out there for the taking. In other words, the country’s top 64 of 119 teams can now call their seasons a “success.” All they have to do is break even.

In no other sport this side of T-ball is mediocrity rewarded as it is in today’s college football.

Under this system, a team like Utah would be hard-pressed NOT to make it to a bowl game. All they have to do is clobber a few patsies early in the season, e.g. NAU and Utah State–W’s that are pretty much guaranteed–and then go 4-6 the rest of the way. With a conference schedule that features competition such as UNLV and San Diego State, Utah would have to come down with a serious case of suckiness to be left out of the postseason picture.

And to think that just a few years ago, a bowl game actually meant something. As recently as 1995, there were only 19 bowl games. But with each passing year, the number has crept up little by little to what it is today. Two more games here?three more games there?and what seemed like a gradual shift is now a massive cheapening of the whole concept of the bowl game.

In 1997, 20 bowl games were contested. That number increased to 23 by 1999, 25 by 2000, 28 by 2002 and now the number of bowl games has ballooned to 32.

New bowls are sprouting up every year, thanks in part to corporate sponsors that are clamoring to shell out millions in order to seize a portion of the college-football-bowl-game smorgasbord.

Many traditional bowl games no longer exist. The Peach Bowl, for example, has been renamed the Chick-Fil-A Bowl thanks to a five-year, $22 million deal between the two entities.

And remember the Copper Bowl? It’s now called the Insight Bowl–not the Insight Copper Bowl, just the Insight Bowl.

With only so many bowl games in existence that can be renamed, there’s no telling how many more bowls will materialize in the future. There is, however, a ceiling on how many six-win clubs there are in the country.

So what’s the next move? Will the “magical number” drop to five wins? Four wins? Two?

You have to give the powers-that-be credit. Why have a playoff system when you can bill a game between two 6-6 squads as a “bowl game”–a designation that gives fans the impression that it’s an important event when in actuality, it’s a thinly disguised advertisement?

Currently, the Alamo Bowl is one of the only bowls without sponsorship. Last year it was the MasterCard Alamo Bowl, but apparently the credit card company and the bowl have severed ties, which leaves the Alamo Bowl on the lookout for a new sponsor. Any takers?

If I ever come into a huge stash of money–and I won’t–maybe I’ll spend it on my own bowl game and give it an honest name: The Bowl Game Just to Have Another Bowl Game.