Curmudgeonly types lamenting the demise of our society’s competitive drive point to the everyone gets a trophy philosophy of youth sports. It might be time to turn their rancor against Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown, instead.
Mark May went on a Twitter rant about Ohio State commissioning rings for its 12-0 season. Mind you, the Buckeyes were Div. I football’s sole unbeaten at season’s end. The 2012 season marked something of a return to the sport’s top tier after an ugly, scandal-plagued 2011.
Someone might want to check on May after all the rings passed out this week. UT’s Brown tweeted the below image of Alamo Bowl championship rings given to the Longhorn players.
Just gave guys their Bowl Champ rings. Told them It’s reward 4 winning Bowl game vs #13 Oregon St &momentum for 2013 twitter.com/UT_MackBrown/s…
— Mack Brown (@UT_MackBrown) May 2, 2013
Rings for bowl games are not necessarily out of the norm. Take Tulsa’s 2010 Hawaii Bowl ring, which commemorates not only the Golden Hurricane’s rout of nationally ranked Hawaii in the postseason, but the program’s defeat of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Oct. 30.
But then, that’s Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane program is among the most consistent in the non-BCS conferences over the past decade, but there ends its football tradition. Pre-New Year’s Day bowl wins and defeats of traditional powers are program builders for a Tulsa, but not for a Texas.
That was in Will Muschamp’s first season after taking over what he continues to describe as a bad situation upon his arrival. The validity of such an argument is open for debate. And, of note, Muschamp came to Gainesville from Texas.
Brown cites “momentum,” though inertia might be more apt to describe the Longhorns’ past few seasons. Since playing for the 2009 season’s national championship, Texas is 22-16. The nine wins it accrued in 2012 is its most over the past three seasons, but UT continued its dubious streak of at least four losses in the Big 12 Conference.
Coincidentally Brown’s former team, the North Carolina Tar Heels, doled out rings for their own four-loss season. UNC is not a historic football power like Texas, so the program’s exuberance over a divisional championship is more understandable.
— Jason Freeman (@uncfootball) April 30, 2013
The Tar Heels were unable to play for the ACC championship because of NCAA sanctions, which allowed 6-6 Georgia Tech the opportunity.
Like programs with rings, college football passes out bowls somewhat indiscriminately. Now, I preface the following with this: as a football fan, I have nothing against 35 more opportunities to watch the college game before its eight-month hibernation. Further, the non-BCS programs that receive bowl invitations they would have been denied in years past get an opportunity to establish themselves. A program like Tulsa is able to build itself up with Hawaii and Liberty Bowl appearances.
However, each of the last two seasons, 6-7 teams that defaulted their way into conference championship games went bowling. This week, Sports Illustrated‘s Stewart Mandel reported that future instances of the 2011 UCLA Bruins or 2012 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets no longer require special exemption. It’s now a given they will bowl before teams from less prestigious conferences with above-.500 records like Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee or Louisiana Tech.
NCAA board voted today that 6-6 teams in conf. champ games (like Ga Tech last year) no longer need waiver to be bowl eligible.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) May 2, 2013
That’s the obvious flaw, but each of the last two conference championship seasons have nearly exposed an even bigger problem. Had UCLA or Georgia Tech won — and Tech very nearly did — they would have played in one of the BCS bowls. Now, they would have earned that right — insomuch as the golfer who takes five mulligans earns his par.
Sure, it’s a hypothetical. But it’s also one worth addressing now that college football is transitioning to a different postseason model. The guaranteed access — and thus higher revenue — bowls should adopt more stringent standards than conference affiliation for this very reason. And while they’re at it, perhaps a universal guideline for what constitutes ring-worthiness is in order.