How To Fix Bowl Season will be a series of articles in which multiple writers on the Rule Of Tree staff, try to attack the problems of bowl season and raise the value of the December slate.
Since the college football playoff began in 2014, the postseason has left the college faithful wanting more from the games during the rest of bowl season; maybe because of the almost predestined result of the playoff itself, perhaps the lack of importance found in premier bowls like the Rose Bowl or Orange Bowl or the bevy of NFL talent finding it more useful to sit for the draft than play for their school, maybe a little of everything. Whatever the problem, it is clear that Bowl Season needs tinkering.
Ever since the playoff system was adopted, college football has been searching for a way to add value to everything else in December, desperately trying to convince everyone these games matter despite being outside of the two that decide title contenders.
A few ideas have stayed in circulation over the years as options of correction.
Opening the field to two or four more teams might give a couple more programs the feeling of accomplishment to finish the season, but would do little to the overall product (you really want to see UCF vs. Alabama? Really? REALLY?).
Taking away bowl games may add some emphasis on the regular season success, but will probably do little to the bowl value itself. And I refuse to go down the rabbit hole of paying players in this column.
So where does that leave us? What valuable asset can teams not afford to lose but would make the bowl games not only relevant but also incredibly impactful to each team’s future?
The Proposition: Play for out of state recruiting eligibility.
The system is simple; it excludes more cash getting introduced into the equation, does away with the notion of more playoff games and keeps the number of bowls as they are.
Each team finds themselves fighting for the right to keep adding talent from across the country, a battle that decides the continued success of the program. For the winner, the spoils will be the opportunity to recruit out of state, while the loser will be confined to their borders.
The danger would be a top-heavy dominance, with the best teams continually scooping up all the out of state assets, leaving the bottom tier teams to struggle in-state. However, the widespread nature of the current bowl circuit fixes the problem on its own.
It only takes six wins to find a bowl berth, and is an option for every conference, giving everyone from LSU to Marshall a chance at out of state recruits. The opponent selection allows for top-level bowl teams to play their competition from out of conference, giving teams from the bottom of a conference a chance to surge.
For example- the Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan State Spartans, and Michigan Wolverines traditionally dominate the Big Ten. This season, those teams went 1-3 in their bowl games, while teams traditionally at the bottom of their conference (like the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern, Iowa) all won. It would not only give balance around both a conference and the nation, but it would also add heavy emphasis and importance behind the bowl games.
It would also give added incentive for the talent headed out the door that might consider sitting out. The participation of top-level athletes would mean sustaining success in the program after leaving. And each bowl would be significant because it could either kill or surge the next cycle of recruiting for a school.
Confidence would be another by-product of this plan. The Utah State Aggies came out swinging this season, cruising to 10 victories and taking the New Mexico Bowl. If they snag some better recruits, because fewer schools can grab players out of state, maybe they get on the phone with bigger schools down the road for their out of conference slate.
Not only could this shake up a conference, but it could also add for a more compelling out of conference start to the season.
Giving a variety of teams a shot at the top 25, and adding a real heavy hitting argument for the UCF’s of the world trying to crack the top five, could all be in sight by shacking up the recruiting field.
Now granted, there are some drawbacks to this style. There is no good way to decide what to do with a college that fails to make a bowl game, and a cap on where they recruit would be a death sentence for a team already struggling.
Disappointed high school prospects, who can no longer play for their dream school because of a bowl loss, is another drawback. And now with the new transfer rules allowing players to red shirt or transfer despite playing in up to four games, gives athletes the option to still find their way into a specific program.
No plan is perfect, and every omelet has broken eggs.
However, this route does not drastically change the bowl landscape, add more money to a corrupt system and builds on the strategy of the recruiting process.
Keeping the top talent playing, and make these games essential is the goal this plan could accomplish for college football.