THE PURPOSE of this column is two-fold.
First, it's meant to help familiarize West Virginia University football fans to the Big 12's current bowl lineup. Second, it is to pose a question concerning bowls in light of the upcoming four-team college football playoff.
In regard to the first objective, understand that the 10-team Big 12 has stakes in seven bowls. Within the Bowl Championship Series, it is tied to the Fiesta Bowl. You might recall that last season, Oklahoma State defeated Andrew Luck and Stanford in overtime by 41-38 in Tempe, Ariz.
The Big 12 runner-up plays in the Cotton Bowl against a Southeastern Conference team. (That's quite an upgrade for WVU's program. The Big East runner-up played in the Champs Sports Bowl - if, that is, Notre Dame didn't swipe the slot.)
The other five Big 12 bowls, in selection order, are the Alamo in San Antonio (versus a Pac-12 team); Insight in Tempe (Big Ten); Holiday in San Diego (Pac-12); Meineke Car Care of Texas in Houston (Big Ten); and the New Era Pinstripe in New York's Bronx (Big East). The lineup will be in place for the next two seasons.
(WVU fans might be amused that no matter what the conference, they can't get away from a Meineke bowl. The bowl in Charlotte, though, has transformed into the Belk Bowl.)
We've wondered in print before how WVU fans will travel now that their Mountaineers won't be sent to familiar haunts like Charlotte or Jacksonville.
But let's jump from that to a much broader question: Exactly how will fans overall travel to "baby bowls" when the national semifinals and final are put in place?
The thought from here is the lesser, least respected bowls will be even more devalued in the years to come.
Know that the bowl system is protected by college administrators and networks for a simple reason. And it isn't so fans and athletes can visit distant cities. It isn't for the "experience." It's for money, plain and simple. The 35 bowl games last season attracted 1,765,224 to the stands (50,435 per contest), slightly less than the record mark set the year before of 1,813,215. Across all networks, television bowl games drew 127 million viewers.
It's a money grab - most of which goes to ESPN, dominant in airing the games.
But OK, so what of those frivolous bowl games many of us complain about? The ones you see on TV with no one in the stands? Might they finally go away?
The answer is no. But they will be devalued.
When the playoff fever sets in, the view from here is fewer fans will be interested in following their team to Albuquerque for the Gildan New Mexico Bowl or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise.