Gophers Bowl Bound, Despite Losing Record. Really?
Despite finishing the regular season with a 5-7 record, the Minnesota Gophers football team will once again go ‘bowling’ this year, having accepted an invitation to play in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit on December 28. The Gophers will play Central Michigan, who was barely above .500 themselves, with a 7-6 record out of the Mid-American Conference.
The Gophers were one of three teams with a losing record, along with Nebraska and San Jose State, to be invited to a bowl game. With only 77 teams grabbing the necessary six wins generally required to be bowl eligible and 80 bowl slots to fill, the NCAA turned to academics to determine who was awarded the remaining bowl trips.
As a huge fan of sport, in general, I have some really mixed feelings about this. My initial reaction is that bowl games are quickly becoming college football’s equivalent to the ‘participation trophy’ that has gained popularity in many youth sports. How long will it be before every FBS college football team gets invited to a bowl game, no matter how many games they lost? With any luck, maybe someday we'll see two winless teams play in a game actually called the ‘Toilet Bowl.'
My other reaction is simply that there are too many stupid, pointless bowl games around at this point. I used to be a fan of bowl games. Especially those that actually pitted good teams from strong conferences together. The last few years, however, I have noticed that many of the stadiums hosting bowl games are far, far from capacity. And I wonder how many people actually watch some of them on television, either.
Does anybody seriously want to spend three hours watching a below-average football team from a major conference play against a barely above-average football program from a ‘mid-major’ conference? In Detroit? In late-December?
At this point, with the new playoff format, the only bowl games that mean anything at all are the three that make up the championship semi-finals and final. Those are, realistically, the only ones I’ll watch this bowl season.
On the bright side, I guess credit should be given to the NCAA for using academics to determine the three below-.500 teams that got invited to fill the final bowl slots. It’s about time we see at least a little bit of the ‘student’ side of ‘student athlete’ actually come into play with something related to collegiate athletics.
What are your thoughts? Should the Gophers be going to a bowl game this year? Will you be watching it?