OMAHA, Neb. -- NCAA Managing Director of Football and Baseball Dennis Poppe confirmed for me Monday what I've been wondering about the proliferation of bowl games.
When it comes to new bowls, it's promoter beware.
The NCAA in April approved two more bowl games, the Congressional Bowl in Washington D.C. and the St. Petersburg Bowl in -- guess where? -- St. Petersburg, Fla.. That brings the total to 34 bowls. Do the quick math and that means 68 bowl slots. There were only 71 bowl-eligible teams last season.
Poppe, here for the College World Series, calls that a safe "margin of error." Three teams? (Actually, the number varies from year to year but it's still close. In 2006, there were 73 bowl-eligible teams.)
The pressure is not on the NCAA, which does little more than certify new bowls, but on the bowls themselves. If there aren't enough bowl eligible teams, there simply won't be bowls.
"The only option right now is that the bowl wouldn't have a game," said Poppe, a former lineman for Missouri's 1970 Orange Bowl team. "That's what it always has been (but) we reaffirmed that. The association's position is that granting a license doesn't necessarily guarantee a game."
If there was a possible shortage, why did the NCAA certify the two new bowls? Legally, it doesn't have much choice. It might be surprising to know that the NCAA has little to do with the postseason. It certifies bowls, assigns officials and sets rules. Other than that, cities, promoters, schools and conferences stage the games.
If there is a glut of games, the public loves it. Average attendance at the 32 bowl games in 2007-08 was the highest in eight years. That would suggest that although seven bowl eligible teams didn't make the postseason last year, there are fans out there willing to watch the likes of Troy, Ohio and Louisiana-Monroe. (The other four bowl eligible teams that did it get invites were South Carolina, Northwestern, Iowa and Louisville.)
The next hurdle for bowl executives could be the dreaded Academic Progress Rate. Beginning in 2009, teams that have posted a sub-900 APR three consecutive season could be banned from postseason competition.
"We are in an area where the margin is pretty thin," Poppe said. "I still think we should have enough teams ... The theory is to provide as much opportunity as possible."
• You might have noticed that the newspaper industry is in shambles. This is not gloating. While we Internet hacks seem to be the lucky ones, our hearts go out to colleagues who are being downsized because of corporate mismanagement.
Two good friends left their jobs recently. Wendell Barnhouse of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram took a buyout after more than three decades in the business. The Star-Telegram has decided to do away with its national college football beat as part of its downsizing. Also, Howard Richman was let go at the Kansas City Star after a quarter century with the paper. He was covering Kansas State, nailing every breaking story on the beat.
These guys are two examples of how the reader is losing. Newspapers still haven't figured out to make their product work in a changing media environment. Sure, the Internet is a threat but you would have thought by now that someone would have figured how to reconfigure newspapers.
The major problem is papers being run by corporations instead of journalists. This guy Zell who owns Tribune Co. literally scares me.
It used to be about putting out a good product. Now it's more about profit margin. This bastardization of a vocation causes good people like Wendell and Howard to leave the profession. Courage, guys. We're thinking about you.