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Big Ten Meetings Bring Talk of Stiffer Bowl Standards, A Benefit to Post-Season

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Adam Rittenberg

reported on the ESPN.com Big Ten blog

Tuesday that the Big Ten is committed to fewer bowl bids. With the conference also seemingly on board with a four-team playoff proposal, that’s more good news for a higher quality postseason to cap sports’ best regular season.

The conference’s meeting in Chicago brought “a consensus” among administrators that a tournament of college football’s elite is the best model. Per the Michigan Live report, there seems to also be an agreement that an expansive playoff field hurts the quality of the regular season.

These revelations constitute a marriage of much-needed progress in how the game determines a champion, while maintaining a level of tradition and uniqueness that separates it from the rest of the athletic landscape.

The Big Ten has taken some criticism for its defense of the Rose Bowl. Frankly, those who would devalue the Rose Bowl’s significance lack an appreciation for college football’s rich tradition. There is, however, a valid argument to be made against pitting 6-7 UCLA against 6-6 Illinois has beyond the corporate sponsorship dollars to be made.

By introducing a more rigid standard simultaneously with a playoff is preserving the significance of bowls. A primary knock on the bowl system is that the existence of too many rewards mediocrity. Upping the standard a team must meet resolves that issue, while also making it that much more of an accomplishment.

Will there then be fewer bowls? Possibly — in 2011, there were a whopping 14 six-game winners in the post-season: UCLA, Illinois, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Purdue, Northwestern, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Ohio State, Marshall, Pitt, Iowa State and Florida.

Eliminating some of those teams from the equation does mean a Western Kentucky that finished above .500 and second in its conference is not forced to spend the bowl season at home. Further, if the new playoff does not incorporate existing bowl games for its format, the amount of games may not have to be sacrificed too significantly.

For those who scoff at a bowl’s place, ask a student-athlete who has participated in one the meaning. My alma mater carved memorable moments in past Fiesta and Holiday Bowls that endure, and the Rose Bowl is a brass ring I wrote means a lot on AZ Desert Swarm.