Anthony Stafford will be watching a movie. “Goldfinger” or “The Bodyguard” or “Scarface,” and will see the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.
“Brings back memories,” said Stafford, an OU halfback from 1985-88. “Man, we were there. That kind of stuff sticks with you.”
Bob Stoops will smile when he reads that.
College football's peculiar institution is not dead. The bowl system will live to fight another day. And Stoops is pleased.
Bowls remain a part of the latest playoff plan, a four-team affair that will double the contestants if the sport's presidential oversight committee signs off Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
And that's a good thing for several reasons. Not the least of which is the reward for the players.
Bowls provide neutral sites and tradition and generally strong organizing bodies, all of which this sport needs.
But the vacation reward for players is the most redeeming element of bowl games.
Stoops actually got fired up the other day just talking about it.
“What a lot of people don't get, these bowl games matter to young people,” Stoops said.
“We recruit, all of us do, some kids from … disadvantage backgrounds that have never been out of their little community and here on campus.
“We get to take them to Miami for five, six days. Go to five-star restaurants, stay in five-star hotels. Or Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl.”
The hospitality for players at most bowl games is excellent. The better the team, the better the bowl, the better the locale.
Five days in Shreveport or Birmingham is OK. Five days in Los Angeles or Tampa is fantastic.
Stoops said the vacation aspect of bowls won't change even if it's a national semifinal. He will treat the trip same as always. And should the Sooners win, the national title game becomes the total-business trip.
“You have your bowl experience,” Stoops said, “then have a game eight days, six days, seven days, nine days later, whatever it is, we're all working on the same rules.
“Then you don't have to have the bowl experience. You've already had it.”
The proposed plan is for the title game to be put up for bid, ala the Super Bowl. Cities like Arlington and Atlanta have been mentioned. The semifinal bowls would be New Year's Eve and/or New Year's Day. Then a week later comes the title game.
“Show up two days before the game so you can do your interviews, get it out of the way, play a national championship game,” Stoops said. “I think it would be great.”
And it would preserve college football's vacation tradition for its players.
Stoops said some players' eyes are opened by staying at resorts on the beach or in the desert.
“You mean this is out there? I didn't know this existed,” they will say.
Stafford, recruited to OU from St. Louis, said that certainly was his experience with three Orange Bowl trips and a Citrus Bowl trip.
“That was a huge factor for us,” said Stafford. “Once you have that experience of participating in a bowl game like that, guys got the sense not only of playing in a big ballgame, it was also a reward for a lot of hard work.”
Stoops said that being able to take his players to different parts of the country is “special. The bowls have to remain or we will cut through the heart of college football. So they have to be included.”
Barring catastrophe in D.C., they will be. The working plan is for two of the four major bowls – Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta – to serve as rotating semifinals every season.
“The bowls are, rightfully so, very concerned where this all goes,” said OU athletic director Joe Castiglione, who was part of the process to develop an expanded playoff. “They want to be part of it no matter which model is chosen.
“I do believe that in the end, people want to see the bowl system continue and be healthy.”
We can curse the bowls, and we can ridicule the bowls, and we can expose the bowls for fraud and mischief. But the bowls absolutely have been a reward for players. For that reason alone, they should survive.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.