Even as March Madness was growing in popularity, NCAA bowl games were a special time of the year for sports fans. Perhaps 30 to 40 teams would get an extra game. Most of the teams were pretty good and half of them were assured they would finish the season with a victory. It kept college football alive for two terrific weeks with multiple games on various dates and football during the week as an added bonus to fans everywhere.
Those days are gone. Television money has grown the game count to the point where many mediocre teams are now in bowls. The playoff system has made lessor bowls meaningless. There are so many games that a number of them are played during most American’s work hours. A very large number of the bowls are so poorly attended that the networks (mostly ESPN) don’t show the stands for fear viewers and advertisers will realize the elite programs’ spring sessions get larger attendance.
And now, it’s not only fans that don’t show up…players with draft expectations say they are “getting ready for the draft” when what they really mean is they are going to avoid a potential injury by not playing in a game that isn’t part of the playoff structure.
The NCAA needs to protect the quality of its product, as opposed to squeezing whatever dollars it can out of it. Reducing the number of bowls is an obvious way to do some damage control. Other fixes will require conversations, hopefully sooner rather than later.