Too Many Bowls, Too Little Broth
By Jim Henneman
For about 12 hours or so this past Monday, it seemed like the "Good Bowl Days," when college football's postseason play started and ended on the same day. There were a handful of competitive games (provided defense wasn't your idea of a good couch day) and one traditional parade -- just as it used to be, when the Rose Bowl (a.k.a. the "granddaddy of them all") started the new year by ending the old.
Almost forgotten was the fact that by the time the New Year holiday rolled around, just about half of all the Division I schools fielding football teams had already had some kind of postseason exposure, much of which could charitably be classified as indecent. We're at least two generations removed from the days when postseason bowl eligibility required more than a degree of mediocrity, but maybe there is finally some evidence suggesting the "bowl mania" has peaked.
If so, we may be able to thank the sluggish economy for something positive.
In case you hadn't noticed, there were an awful lot of tickets that went unsold by schools competing in some of these postseason matchups. Even the glamorous Orange Bowl, with one of the premier "traveling teams" in West Virginia, found itself with an embarrassing number of tickets that went unclaimed. For the most part, the schools are committed to buying "x-amount" of tickets as part of the "invitation" package -- and when you have to tack on the cost of paying for up to 10,000 tickets in addition to the expense of traveling parties that generally require three or four chartered planes, some of these trips are looking less than exotic.
The NCAA's ridiculous rule that a team needs only six wins and a .500 record to qualify will have to be addressed, sooner rather than later. A good start would be to declare any team that has fired its coach ineligible for bowl participation. It stands to reason that if a team didn't perform up to whatever expectations there were for the coach to retain his job, then it isn't good enough to continue its season. There were some bowl games this year that featured two "coachless" teams, which should say all you need to know when buying tickets (or watching TV) is a consideration.
Here's how ludicrous the bowl picture has become: UCLA, having won the minimum number of games (to go 6-6 and win its Pac-12 division title) had to petition the NCAA for permission to be bowl-eligible in the likely event it lost the conference championship game to Oregon (which, of course, happened by a large margin). Naturally, the NCAA obliged one of its signature schools, so UCLA was able to continue on and finish 6-8 -- but with a bowl appearance on its record.
Oh, well -- something has to be done to fill ESPN's December date book.
If I had my pick of all the remaining free-agent pitchers on the market, the one I would like to see on the Orioles' staff would be Edwin Jackson, who is battle-tested and only 28 years old. But I won't quibble with any philosophy that says no more than three years for a pitcher. For a one-and-done deal, Roy Oswalt would be a much better fit that Kevin Millwood was a couple years ago.
Scott Boras has 13 of the less than 100 remaining free agents, but after Prince Fielder, reliever Ryan Madson and Jackson, his cupboard is a little bare -- with the likes of Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Gonzalez (remember him?), Millwood (he's still around after missing most of last year) and J.D. Drew.
Based on voting revelations of several BBWAA members, Barry Larkin is running at a high percentage in the 2012 Hall Of Fame balloting -- but the sampling is less than 15 percent. The former Reds shortstop would have to make a record leap from 63 percent to get the necessary 75 percent needed for election. This is the year to make a significant move, because the ballot will become crowded starting next year, when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa promise to create a logjam that could put the whole voting process in jeopardy.
I keep hearing that the team that wins the Super Bowl will have to run the ball, stop the run and not rely on the passing game. Guess that eliminates the Packers, Saints and Patriots.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
Posted Jan. 4, 2012