Bowl Game Tie-Ins Need to be Done Away With

Ainslie Lee

It’s December 30. 

You’ve already repaired the broken window your son hit a line drive through with his new baseball bat that Santa brought and you’ve played princess tea party at least a dozen times since Christmas morning. 

Alas, it’s 8 p.m., and your Florida Gators are kicking off their final game of the 2019 season. 

It has been a wild year, yet, you hate to see it come to an end. But, a NY6 bowl ending isn’t half bad. If Dan Mullen can finish his second year 11-2 with back-to-back NY6 wins, the national media will really start chirping about the Florida Gators. 

Except… the No. 9 Florida Gators (10-2) are playing the No. 24 Virginia Cavaliers (9-4). 

Florida is coming off of 40-17 win over Florida State while Virginia will come to Miami with their tails between their legs after a 62-17 obliteration at the hands of Clemson.

Virginia also lost to Louisville and Miami this season – two teams with a combined record of 13-11. 

You think to yourself, “Is there really no one better that Florida could be playing right now?” 

Please, allow me: There is. 

Alabama, for example, at one point this season the Crimson Tide (#13) were regarded as the best team in the nation. After losses at LSU (#1) and the rivaling Auburn Tigers (#12), they took quite the fall. 

However, Nick Saban’s team is likely still a stout group of guys. But for the sake of this argument, it’s important to mention that the Tide is undoubtedly better than Virginia.

Despite this, Alabama will not go to a NY6 bowl this year – instead, they find themselves on the outside looking in from the Citrus Bowl in Orlando where they will square off against Michigan. 

Now, while Alabama and Michigan could present an exciting game between two of college football’s biggest brands, is it fair? 

The short answer is no. 

The long answer is that it doesn’t matter if it’s fair (even though it should matter, but more on that shortly). 

Thanks to a couple of attractive looking contracts, certain bowl games have obligations to certain conferences. For the big bowls around New Year’s, the obligations are as follows: 

  • Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Ca.) – Pac 12 vs Big 10 
  • Cotton Bowl (Arlington, Tx.) – At-large vs Group of five 
  • Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, La.) – Big 12 vs SEC 
  • Orange Bowl (Miami, Fl.) – ACC vs Big 10/SEC/Notre Dame 
  • Peach Bowl (Atlanta, Ga.) – At-large vs At-large* 
  • Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Az.) – At-large vs At-large* 

*annotates a College Football Playoff game in 2019-2020, playoffs rotate through the above six sites 

So, typically once the playoff teams are announced, the NY6 bowls get first dibs at what teams they would like to invite – sorta. 

When there are contracted obligations with a conference, the bowl often invited the highest ranked team from that conference. For example, in this year’s Rose Bowl, No. 6 Oregon (Pac 12) and No. 8 Wisconsin (Big 10) will share the field. Oregon is the Pac 12’s highest ranked team, therefore they are a shoo-in for this bowl. 

While Wisconsin isn’t the highest ranked team out of the Big 10, they are the highest ranked team out of that conference that isn’t in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State, who is ranked No. 2 in the country, regretfully declined to switch spots with Wisconsin – not really, that was a joke. 

This works the same way with the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl – which, in turn, plays into the why Florida’s matchup is so underwhelming this year. 

Because the Orange Bowl is contracted with the ACC, it must invite the highest ranked team from that conference. And unfortunately, the ACC has had a very rough year. 

Anyone who pays attention to college football knows that the gap between Clemson and the rest of the conference is about a far away as the east is from the west. But, a contract is a contract and Virginia, being the next best ranked ACC contender, slides into a NY6 game against the Gators. 

It’s silly. It gets me worked up. 

Due to these contracted alliances, undeserving teams like Virginia are taking opportunities away from more worthy teams – the aforementioned Alabama Crimson Tide being one of them. But they aren’t the only ones.

A 10-2 Notre Dame team, an 11-2 Utah team, a 10-2 Minnesota team, a 9-3 Auburn team and even an 10-3 Cincinnati team would be sexier opponents for the Gators. 

Now, I can’t say that bowl committees would pair up two teams from the same conference to square down, because that takes some of the fun out of going to bowl games, but a Florida-Notre Dame matchup, a Florida-Utah battle, a Florida-Minnesota bout or another Florida-Cincinnati grapple could be entertaining. 

Personally, my guess is that any of those games would come with more excitement than that of the actual upcoming game. But, nonetheless, a contract is a contract. 

Which is why the Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl are the angel children in the NY6 family. 

Now, if only their counterparts could stop being so picky and get rid of their contracted tie-ins, maybe we’d be living in a much quieter household. 

But instead, the noise of you banging your head against the wall at the thought of playing a team like Virginia in a NY6 bowl is ringing throughout the house. 

No worries, dude. I get it.