- The COVID-19 pandemic has made a mess out of the 2020 college football season.
- At last tally, there have been 16 bowl cancellations with five new cancellations on Sunday.
- In addition, 22 teams have opted out of a bowl appearance.
One of the more interesting byproducts of the 2020 COVID-19 college football season has been the profound lack of interest in all but the most prestigious bowl games. As of this writing, 22 teams have said ‘we’re good’ when it comes to a bowl appearance. With the decline in marketable bowl teams also comes more cancellations of marginal bowl games. The ‘party line’ is that ‘these kids have suffered enough’ and ‘an abundance of caution’ and ‘student-athletes and families’ but the reality? Here’s how I called it several days ago:
The theme of the 2020 college football season might be summarized as ‘If you ain’t payin’, we ain’t playin’.” Although no one has the temerity to come out and say that as teams ‘opt out’ of bowl appearances and organizers cancel some of the marginal games that is clearly the message. Why else would a 5-6 team want to drag themselves to some flyover country hellhole to play in the Stay-Free Maxi Pad Bowl or some such?
On Sunday, the University of Maryland withdrew from bowl consideration. It wasn’t an especially difficult decision–the Terrapins were 2-3 and their program had been a veritable petri dish for most of the season:
Maryland has struggled to keep the virus out of its program all season. Twenty-three players and nine staff members tested positive during a two-week span in November, and Maryland had to call off home games against Ohio State and Michigan State. The Terps returned to play in a loss against Indiana, but their opponent for the following week, Michigan, had to cancel because of an outbreak in the Wolverines’ program.
According to a tally from CBS Sports that makes it 22 teams that have opted out. You can be sure that this list will grow in the next 48 hours:
Boise State, Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Louisville, LSU (self-imposed bowl ban), Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Penn State, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington, Washington State
Bowl games are a tough sell for a program. No college kid wants to go to a C- List town to play football in an empty stadium and order Buffalo Wild Wings delivery via Uber Eats. If they can’t drink, fondle coeds and otherwise recreate why bother?
The motivation for football programs to commit to a third tier bowl game is all the more dubious. Coaches and administrators don’t get to engage in debauchery anyone and in a game no one will watch and no one will attend they won’t even get a decent sized check out of it. Bowl organizers don’t have motivation either–in addition to the loss of gate revenue they don’t have much demand for advertising and sponsorships. Forget about the spirit of competition or similar nonsense.
Fortunately, teams have an ‘easy out’ with the COVID-19 pandemic. Just play the ‘mental strain due to the pandemic’ card or the ‘our student-athletes miss their families’ card. Here’s a blurb from the previously linked article about Maryland opting out of a bowl bid:
The NCAA waived all minimum-win requirements for bowl eligibility, meaning all 127 teams in the top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision that played this season are eligible. Numerous programs have opted out of the postseason, often citing the mental strain this season has placed on players. Maryland is one of five Big Ten teams that have removed themselves from bowl consideration, joining Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Penn State. Big Ten champion Ohio State will face Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
Either we’re supposed to believe that college football players are as emotionally frail as junior high school girls or that they’re enduring hardships not seen since WW I.
Earlier on Sunday, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported that four bowl games would be cancelled:
According to Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, the Military, Guaranteed Rate and Independence Bowls will all be canceled. Either the Armed Forces Bowl or Birmingham Bowl will also be called off.
Thankfully, he got one detail wrong–the Armed Forces Bowl *and* the Birmingham Bowl won’t be played this year. Not that anyone will miss them….
Here’s the current tally of cancelled bowl games from CBS Sports:
Bahamas, Birmingham, Celebration, Fenway, Frisco, Guaranteed Rate, Hawai’i, Holiday, Independence, LA, Las Vegas, Military, Pinstripe, Quick Lane, Redbox, Sun
For now at least, there are 28 bowl games as CBS Sports details:
The wild process of college football bowl game selections has now concluded with 56 of the 127 FBS teams that were active in the 2020 season filling slots in 28 postseason contests. It all started with the announcement of the four College Football Playoff teams and continued with the release of the final CFP Rankings and the rest of the New Year’s Six games.
Even with teams opting out of bowl consideration left and right there’s still a chance to screw over a deserving team. Meet the Army Black Knights at 9-2. They reportedly had an agreement to play in the Independence Bowl before it was cancelled. They still want to play based on comments from AD Mike Buddie and you can be damn sure they’re not crying about ‘mental strain’ at West Point:
“These young men haven’t quit all year and we surely won’t quit now. They deserve better. Period. They have earned an opportunity to get 10 wins and, as we have all year, we will continue to fight to get them that opportunity.”
Somehow, 3-7 Tennessee and 2-8 South Carolina get bowl bids but 9-2 Army doesn’t. I’d like to see Army just show up at one of the stadiums where an undeserving team is playing in a marginal bowl game and offer to fight them for the right to compete. Not only would that be extremely entertaining I know who my money would be on….