Mon Mar 08 12:59pm EST
Just a couple of months removed from the most crowded postseason (34 bowl games) in college-football history, we're on the verge of packing in even more. Three new games are awaiting a certification decision from the NCAA next month:
• The Cure Bowl, not a celebration of Robert Smith's trendsetting New Wave band but rather a benefit for the Susan G. Komen breast-cancer research foundation and the American Cancer Society, is tentatively scheduled for December 18 at Bright House Networks Stadium (home of the UCF Knights) in Orlando. It is slated to match up teams from the Sun Belt and Conference USA.
• The Yankee Bowl, which aims to match up the #4 team from the Big East and the Big XII's #7 squad on December 29, is intended, as far as anyone can tell, mainly to show off the New York Yankees' shiny new baseball palace (a facility the game itself may or may not fit into).
• The Dallas Football Classic would pit a Big Ten team against a Big XII or C-USA team in alternating years and would represent the return of postseason football to Dallas's Fair Park on New Year's Day after a one-season hiatus. (The Cotton Bowl game left the Cotton Bowl stadium for shinier, newer pastures at Jerry Jones's Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.)
Sound like fun? There's just one problem: Thirty-seven bowls means we need 74 bowl-eligible teams -- and we only had 71 last season.
Particularly now that many bowl games are setting up complex tie-ins that may rotate among two or three conferences from year to year, it's tough to navigate the tangled web of conference tie-ins and selection orders that form the framework of each bowl season. But as near as I can figure, had the 2010 bowl hierarchy been applied to the 2009 season, seven bowl games (the Cure, New Mexico, St. Petersburg, Little Caesar's, Emerald, Humanitarian, and International Bowls) still would've been a team short after the conferences sent all their eligible teams to tied-in bowls. Bowling Green, UL-Lafayette, and UL-Monroe presumably would've taken three of those slots, but four others would remain empty-handed.
It probably isn't a coincidence that five of those seven are less than a decade old. But neither is it a coincidence that ESPN is backing many of the fledgling bowls that have popped up in the last few seasons (and televising nearly all of them) -- so while there's always a chance that some of these bowls could shut down for one financial reason or another, that isn't nearly as likely an outcome as you might think. The last bowl game to go extinct was the Houston (nee Galleryfurniture.com) Bowl in 2005; since then, seven new bowls have been born -- one of which, the Texas Bowl, was created specifically to replace the Houston. The economy may be contracting, but the bowl industry is still very much expanding, oversaturation be damned.
Now, the three proposed new bowls haven't been certified yet, of course, so the NCAA could put a stop to this all by its lonesome if it sees "Peak Bowl" as an imminent threat. But if an aspiring bowl can find a sponsor, a venue, a broadcaster, and two conferences willing to sign on -- which all three of the proposed bowls appear to have done -- shooting it down suddenly becomes a much trickier task. If the NCAA signs off on all three, then there's a very real chance that for the first time, we may have more bowl berths than eligible teams to fill them. And if any of those bowls has to cancel its 2010 installment for lack of available teams, it's doubtful that a lot of effort will be put into reviving it for 2011 or beyond; even deep-pocketed ESPN would probably prefer to shore up its investment in more stable institutions rather than throw good money after bad.
Thus we may see the modern era's first widespread contraction of the postseason, and weirdly enough, it won't be because of a lack of people in the seats: It'll be because there weren't enough men on the field.
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Matt Hinton is on vacation this week. Inform Doug Gillett what a poor substitute he is at dougie_doodle at yahoo.