Bowls

January 01, 2021

The College Bowl season takes place at stadiums across the country throughout December and into the first part of January.  There were 40 licensed bowls for 2020-2021, but only 27 will actually be played due to complications from covid-19.  The latest bowl to cancel is the Texas Bowl (and my Arkansas Razorbacks).  Even though Bowl games are played earlier, the focus is always on the six major Bowls around New Year’s Day, called the New Year’s Six and including the two semifinal games of the College Football Playoff (rotated among the six bowls).  These are the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and the Peach Bowl.  While the Pasadena Rose Bowl was originally slated to host a semi-final, the game was relocated to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, because families of the football teams would not be able to attend a game at the Rose Bowl.  Interestingly, Texas has higher rates of the virus than California.

The term “bowl” originated from the Rose Bowl stadium, site of the first post-season college football games.  The Rose Bowl Stadium, in turn, takes its name and bowl-shaped design from the Yale Bowl, the prototype of many football stadiums in the United States.  The term has since become almost synonymous with any major American football event, generally collegiate football with some significant exceptions.  Two examples are the Egg Bowl, the name of the annual matchup between the Mississippi State and Ole Miss, and the Iron Bowl, a nickname given to the annual game between the Alabama and Auburn.  In professional football, the names of the National Football League’s (NFL) “Super Bowl” and “Pro Bowl” are references to college football bowl games.  The 2021 Pro Bowl has also been dropped.

Bowl games originally featured the best teams in college football, with strict bowl eligibility for teams to receive an invitation in a particular year.  As of 1971, there were only 10 team-competitive (non-all-star) bowl games. The number of bowl games reached 20 games by the 1997 season, then rapidly expanding beyond 30 games by the 2006 season and 40 bowl games (not including the College Football Playoff National Championship) by the 2015 season. The increase in bowl games necessitated a significant easing of the NCAA bowl eligibility rules, and now allows teams with non-winning 6–6 records and even losing 5–6 and 5–7 seasons (10 teams since 2001) to fill the available bowl slots.

Thoughts:  One of my online sites stated the reason for the number of bowl games has little to do with demand, especially in our covid-19 shortened season.  Many of these games were played in half-empty stadiums, even before the pandemic.  Instead, it goes back to who has the most invested in the games, ESPN and their parent company, Disney.  Only one of the scheduled games (Sun Bowl) is not airing on a Disney related network.  The schools and conferences are willing to participate because of the TV revenues generated.  After Wisconsin defeated Duke in the Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, the quarterback dropped the crystal trophy and it shattered into hundreds of pieces.  Another perfect end to 2020.  I wish you all a Happy New Year!  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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