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Berry Tramel


College football: Raising bowl eligibility would come at a cost

by Berry Tramel Published: January 25, 2012

Some in the college football bowl business want to raise the standards. They believe 6-6 teams should not be in bowl games. They have many compelling arguments, and Brett McMurphy of wrote an interesting piece on it, which you can read here.

Short version: requiring teams to have a winning record and/or seven wins would make bowl games more meaningful and almost surely would cut down on the number of bowl games. Several bowls would go out of business, because of a lack of teams available. In the past two seasons alone, 27 teams have reached bowl games with just six wins.

But it’s a bad idea. For one simple reason. Raising the bowl requirement would be one more reason for teams to dumb down their regular-season schedules. One more reason to schedule three or four cupcakes in non-conference, then take your chances within the league.

Think about it. If you’re Kansas State, why in the world would you risk a home-and-home series with Miami, if you need seven wins to reach a bowl? Go 2-1 in non-conference, and that means you’d need a 5-4 Big 12 record to quality. If you’re Ole Miss, why would you play home-and-home with Texas? Go 3-1 in non-conference, and the Rebels would have to go 4-4 in the SEC to qualify for a bowl.

If you’re Arizona State, why play home-and-home with Missouri, when losing would mean at least a 5-4 Pac-12 record to go bowling?

This sport needs more incentive to play good non-conference games. Raising the bowl standards would create less incentive.

I don’t like the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl any more than you do. A 6-6 Illinois vs. 6-7 UCLA matchup, with both schools having fired their coach, is bad football. The glut of bowls hurts the television ratings. Cut down on the number of bowls (35 in the 2011 season), and you increase the strength of the remainder.

But again, why are trying to nurture the bowls? When is someone going to express concern for the regular season. I hope you guys don’t get tired of me preaching about the regular season, but that’s what must be fixed in college football. That’s what must be restored.

If you want to go back to the old rule that games against I-AA opponents don’t count, great. I’m all for it. That would shrink the market for purchased victories and make schools decide just to suck it up and play more real games.

Let’s do a little research. You know I’ve told you this before, but in the 1970s, OU played 40 non-conference games. Thirty-six were against schools that we would now consider to be in BCS conferences. In the decade of 2000-09, OU played 37 non-conference games; 13 were against BCS-conference schools. So the Sooners went from 90 percent of their non-conference games being against similar-level schools to three decades later 35.1 percent. And the Sooners generally are considered way ahead of the curve for their willingness to schedule quality games.

Let’s look at some other schools. Ohio State. In the 1970s, the Buckeyes played 26 non-conference games. All 26 were against BCS-level opponents. Let me repeat. Ohio State in the 1970s did not play a mid-major. The Buckeyes played Oklahoma and Penn State and UCLA and SMU and Colorado and California and Syracuse and Missouri. In the first 10 years of the 2000s, Ohio State played 37 non-conference games, and just like OU had only 13 against BCS-conference foes.

In the 1970s, Texas played 32 non-conference games; 25 came against BCS-level foes, 78.1 percent. From 2000-09, only eight of UT’s 36 non-conference games were from the major conferences, 22.2 percent.

Alabama: 32 of 42 in the ’70s,  76.2 percent; nine of 36 in the ’00s, 25 percent.

You want to go try some non-bluebloods? OK.

Oklahoma State: 24 of 40 in the ’70s, 60 percent; six of 36 in the ’00s, 16.7 percent.

Washington: 26 of 38 in the ’70s, 68.4 percent; 16 of 33 in the ’00s, 48.5 percent.

Mississippi State: 13 of 45 in the ’70s, 28.9 percent (the Bulldogs were pioneers in the art of dumbing down a schedule); six of 36 in the ’00s, 16.7 percent.

Purdue: 22 of 29 in the ’70s, 75.8 percent; 17 of 36 in the ’00s, 47.2 percent.

Well, you get the picture. It’s changed for virtually every school. And college football is the poorer for it. Let’s work to make it better, not worse.


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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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