Creating a four-team playoff was supposed to bring an end to the endless parade of lower-tier bowl games in FBS college football. There’s plenty of evidence to show these bowl games will have a longer shelf life than anticipated.
A whole new batch of bowls are arriving on the scene in 2014. Many of these bowl games will offer postseason destinations for teams from the Mountain West Conference, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference and the Sun Belt.
The MAC announced the creation of both the Bahamas Bowl and the Boca Raton Bowl in October. Each bowl will operate for at least six years from 2014 to 2019. Both bowl games will feature a MAC team against a team from either the American or Conference USA. The Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Florida will feature a MAC vs CUSA matchup in 2014 while the Bahamas Bowl will pair teams from the MAC and the American the same year. Those pairings will switch in 2015.
The Sun Belt will also have a new bowl game starting in 2014 with the creation of the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. It will pit a Sun Belt team vs a MAC team. It will be the third bowl game to held in Alabama.
A fourth bowl game, the Miami Beach Bowl, will start up in 2014 at Marlins Park in Miami. It will feature tie-ins with teams from the American, the Sun Belt, Conference USA and the MAC over a six year period from 2014 to 2019.
The addition of these bowl games will create a total of 38 bowl games in 2014. Currently there are 35 bowl games. This means there will need to be 76 bowl eligible teams to fill those slots. The problem is that finding that many bowl eligible teams from year to year is a difficult task. Many bowl teams in recent years have had 6-6 records.
What does this mean for college football? It is the equivalent of a participation trophy. An excessive number of bowl games has made reaching a bowl game feel like a hollow accomplishment. If all a team needs to do is reach .500 to go to the postseason, little value is placed on doing well in the regular season. It won’t be long before 5-7 football teams become a fixture in bowl games as conferences and their TV partners try to fill empty bowl slots.
If you thought replacing the BCS with an actual playoff would thin out the herd of lower-tier bowls, the creation of these newest bowls paints a different picture. College football is embracing mediocrity with its endless bowl game buffet.
John Coon is a sports reporter based in Salt Lake City. He covers college and pro sports for the Associated Press and other publications and websites.