Why bother with bowls anymore?

By JOE POSNANSKI - Columnist
The Kansas City Star
Date: 12/03/99

The bowls are a joke. That's all. They are pointless, goofy, money-making frauds created to stuff cash into the pockets of everybody except the players, designed to entertain everybody except college football fans, arranged to get more people to buy Tostitos and rent Alamo cars.

Maybe the bowls were not always like that. Maybe at one time they had cachet, maybe they once had pizazz, but that was long ago, in the black-and-white television days when Notre Dame's guy always won the Heisman, when Army was a national power, and Keith Jackson still made a little bit of sense. Maybe the bowls made sense once. So did eight-track tapes, eating goldfish, that Charleston dance and Andrew "Dice" Clay. These days, the bowls are a Chick-fil-A, Wells Fargo, Nokia sham.

So, does it really matter that Kansas State decided to go to the Culligan Holiday Bowl instead of the Southwestern Bell Cotton Bowl? Does it really mean anything that the Wildcats will be playing Skippy's incredibly overrated and soft Washington team in San Diego rather than facing Joe Paterno's incredibly overrated and soft Penn State team in San Antonio?

Well, sure, it means a little something because this is not what many Kansas State fans want. The bowls mean virtually nothing these days, but they are supposed to be for the fans. And many Kansas State fans want to play in Dallas on New Year's Day, because that would be an actual celebration, a party. Many would like to measure the Wildcats against Penn State, a team that at least had national championship inspirations this season, a team with one of the game's great coaches.

Instead, the Wildcats are going to play some lame Wednesday night game in San Diego that would need three injections of Lee Corso just to register as meaningless on the Richter scale.

And let's be honest. This is partly because of Bill Snyder's one imperfection as a football coach: He won't take the big risk. He's the best coach in college football. The very best. This season may have been his best coaching job yet, pulling and wringing a 10-1 record out of a team that had lost virtually its entire offense, the best kicker in America, three great defensive players and the guy who finished second for the Heisman Trophy.

The one troubling part about Snyder is he would rather play it safe. Florida State's Bobby Bowden has probably cost himself two or three national championships by refusing to back down, by playing Florida and Miami and all challengers in kickoff classics. Snyder goes the other way. He probably could have pushed the Wildcats on to New Year's Day. But he would rather take the sure 11-1 record than risk a little glory and a possible loss. Put it this way: He would never go for the million-dollar question with Regis.

All that has been talked about before. Sure, I think Kansas State did the wrong thing by taking a lousy Holiday Bowl bid rather than fight for a New Year's Day bowl. I, like everybody else, would love to see them play Penn State in a game that might prove something rather than watch them beat up on Rick Neuheisel again. Man, it's like beating up Buddy Lee from the jeans commercials.

But that's not the point here. The point is that it never should have come to any of this. The Wildcats got flimflammed by the BCS again. They got passed over by the major bowls again.

And you know why? Because the bowls have nothing to do with college football, because they go for television ratings, because they go for sellouts, because they could care less about what's right or what's fair or what team is best. You hear this nonsense about how the bowls are a reward for the players. Baloney. They pick the teams that can light up the Nielsen ratings boxes. They pick the teams that can sell the most Sylvanias and Outback steaks and Jeeps. They're not football games. They're infomercials with halftime shows.

People say Kansas State needs to win big games to get respect. But you know when the Wildcats will really get respect from the bowls? When they get a couple of million more televisions in Salina and Dodge City and Wichita and Belleville.

This is college football. We're not going to start talking again about playoffs because it won't do any good. The bowls are making too many people rich. We're not going to mention again how hypocritical and pathetic it is that the NCAA would let some computers write the finish of the college football season rather than leaving it to the players themselves. We're not going to say again that college football, because of greed and pigheadedness and politics, has the worst ending in all of sports.

No, but we are going to say that Kansas State got jobbed again, and now they're going to the Culligan Holiday Bowl, where they will play a big fat who-cares game before SportsCenter. That's not much of an ending after a wonderful year, but then, hey, it's bowl season. What did you expect?

Hey, Culligan man.

Joe Posnanski's column normally appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. To reach him, call (816) 234-4361

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