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Death to the NCAA

Bowl Season Will Be College Football’s Crowning Embarrassment

Wisconsin and Northwestern
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We applauded the good sense shown by Boston College coach Jeff Hafley when he announced that the Eagles would be forgoing a bowl game at the entreaties of the players. We haven’t gotten around to crediting Pat Narduzzi or the Pitt Panthers players, or Virginia’s Bronco Mendenhall and the Cavaliers, though we suspect someone will hail them as extraordinary human beings for skipping the already legendary RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl.

Then again, coaches will be getting enough credit in the next few days as firing season heats up, and with it the buying out of contracts that could total as much as $100 million to the dismissed while people across the educational diaspora are being fired for failing to be football coaches. Oh, and Art Briles may be coming back, too.

Well, there may be others, or at least there damned well ought to be, because based on Jerry Palm’s latest bowl projections for CBS Sports (he’s good at this stuff, so stop making that face), there will be teams with atrocious records trying to squeeze one more drop out of the severed head that is this season.

Put another way, the college football machinery is going to book 34 bowl games anyway (nine others were canceled because who gives a damn), and they’re going to do it with the worst teams ever to be rewarded, or in this case punished yet again.

For starters, if Palm is correct, college football hates our men and women in the service of our country. The Military Bowl on December 28 is projected by Palm to have 4-7 Louisville play 6-1 Tulsa, and the Armed Forces Bowl on New Year’s Eve allegedly pits Colorado (4-1 with a game pending) and Mississippi State (2-7 with a game pending). Based on those matchups, desertion rates will reach highs not seen since the first Civil War.

But there will be more, because as the schlocky old B-movie ESPN Needs Programming reminded us, ESPN needs programming. Thus, Palm suggests for you the Gator Bowl, which used to be a semi-big thing and now clearly isn’t, and a showdown between Wake Forest (4-4) and South Carolina (2-8). Arkansas (3-7) gets Texas (6-3, and just put out an official statement saying it won’t fire coach Tom Herman) in the eponymous Texas Bowl. Georgia Tech (3-7) draws BYU (10-1) in the Gasparilla Bowl. Kansas State (4-6) does the First Responder Bowl against San Jose St. (6-0), which should by any reasonable standard be boycotted by exhausted first responders. Even Wisconsin and Maryland (both 2-3 with games this coming Saturday) are Etch-A-Sketched in to the Guaranteed Rate and Music City Bowls, respectively.

Or maybe lack of respectively.

In addition, if Palm is on his game, the Sun Belt Conference will have more invitees than the Pacific 12, which may just be bowl committees trying to take teams close to home but also looks suspiciously like the Pac-12 administrators were being blamed for commissioning the expert study that said that football was a bad idea. That was, of course, before they decided to repudiate science themselves three weeks later so they could cobble together 38 percent of a schedule that increased the likelihood that Power Four conferences are about to become the new thing. Maybe that’s why Maryland’s 2-3 record is so much more impressive than Utah’s 2-2, or why Tennessee’s 3-6 is better than UCLA’S 3-3. Or why Utah’s big game against Washington State (1-2) could make the Utes a bowl  team, too.

Now it should be said that Palm’s projections will doubtless undergo some changes since the start of bowl season and the last week of the regular season begin on the same day, and that there will be plenty of sheepish apologies delivered by bowl committee chairmen as the whole notion of extraneous games becomes more overtly ridiculous and even dangerous.

Also, there might be other coaches who don’t see the upside in further torturing their players for a game that typically costs the schools money to participate in even in normal times. Such bursts of decency will be infrequent because the lure of the Myrtle Beach Bowl will be too much for Kent State or Georgia Southern, but some players might just walk on their own even if the coaches don’t want them to do so.

There may be more reprieves, then, for gutty little underachievers like Texas State (2-10), Akron (1-5), Syracuse (1-10), Southern Mississippi (3-6 with three coaches), Nebraska (2-5 after threatening to leave the Big 10 and helping induce this season of shame) or maybe even Old Dominion, which canceled its season August 10.

Whatever. It all ends badly because it started badly, so why wouldn’t the people who run the machinery of college football clown it one last time in search of that last roll of quarters behind the portajohn pit? Why shouldn’t the Idaho Potato, Duke’s Mayo and Cheez-It bowls remind us of one of the many side effects of COVID-19?

And no, it isn’t gastric distress. It’s shame deficiency.