Loren Smith’s Column: Bowl Games

Published 1:48 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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With the expansion of the playoffs, more bowl games, hopefully, will

become more involved.

After the support the holiday bowls have extended to colleges over

the years, the institutions of higher learning should never be guilty of giving

the bowls back of the hand treatment. For the longest time there was

considerable controversy about determining the national champion until the

BCS arrangement got things moving in the right direction.

We now have a playoff system in place that has worked well. The

current format began in 2014, and while most everyone seems to

appreciate the four-team playoff, controversy has remained, especially

when your team finishes No, 5 and you can make a legitimate case that it

deserved to be in the finals.

No question about the committee being swayed by circumstances.

For example, one of the issues has been Notre Dame, which does not have

a conference affiliation for football. “It is simple,” says a former Big Ten

football head coach. “Tell Notre Dame to join a conference or let the chips

fall where they may. They don’t deserve any special consideration over any

other team.”

To underscore the fact that the exalted college football playoffs are

not infallible, we saw them, mainly oriented by sentiment, include Cincinnati

last year. This is not to say the Bearcats were not deserving, but you could

see how persuasive the sentiment was in including Cincinnati in the Final


When he was head coach at Colorado State, Mike Bobo came home

for Christmas one year. We had a cup of coffee which led to a discussion

about the four-team playoff. He felt that it should be expanded. “It would

be hard for Colorado State to get into the current playoff format,” he said.

“With an expanded format, we might find a way to get into the finals in a

given year. I am speaking up for the little guy.”

With Tennessee displaying a show case offense early in the fall, you

saw what happened late in the season. The playoff committee picked them

No. 1 in the country. The committee, which includes several former

coaches, was persuaded by the Volunteer’s classy offense.

You know the rest of the story. Tennessee then lost two games and

dropped to tenth place by the committee, which showed that it, too, can

become enamored by flashy offense.

The expanded playoff system may not be better than the four-game

format in place, but it obviously will be fairer. Mike Bobo, when he was a

head coach, saw it right. An expanded format will bring more opportunity to

the Colorado States and the Cincinnati’s.

Years ago, the Rose Bowl was a closed society. It would host the

champions of the Pac Ten and the Big Ten. There are many in Pasadena

who would enjoy a return to that plan.

In the SEC, there were many years when things didn’t shake out until

it was determined where Bear Bryant and Alabama would play. With the

preponderance of bowls being played in the South, many bowls preferred a

southern team which would in most cases enhance attendance.

During the late sixties there was a rule which stated that teams could

not talk to bowl representatives until a certain date, a rule that was honored

about as often as drivers obey the 55-mile hour speed limit.

There was a lot of winking going on and a lot of intermediaries getting

involved. Before the Auburn game in 1968, Dan Magill and I took the Orange Bowl representatives to dinner on Friday night before the SEC

showdown on “The Plains.” They pointedly said, “We’ve got to have a

winner. Those are our instructions from Miami.” In the meantime, by

some means other than smoke signals, the Sugar Bowl let it be known that

Georgia had an invitation win or lose.”

Bulldog coach Vince Dooley winked back, “Let’s make a deal.” You

couldn’t blame the coach who had not experienced his 40 th birthday at that

time. He took the bird in hand. The players obviously preferred the

sunshine of Miami.

The ‘Dogs didn’t have their day in New Orleans but would 13 years

later when they won the national championship in a hard-fought game with

Notre Dame.

The rules were too ridiculous at that time and the BCS, which

became highly criticized later, got us moving to the playoff we have today.

There will be some problems with the expanded playoff. We have to wait

and see.

One thing will be a constant, however. Controversy, with regard to

identifying the national football champion, will remain.