Although bowl bids cannot be officially tendered until after the conclusion of Saturday's games, for more than a week now we have been subjected to an avalanche of newspaper and television speculation as to which teams will end up in which bowls -- all 2,000 of them. After studying these ever-changing charts and graphs, I'm convinced that there is an unseen hand guiding the destiny of these bowls, and that hand belongs to Rube Goldberg.
The only bowl I'm sure of is the Rose. There, USC will play Ohio State in a game that will have absolutely no effect on who's No. 1. Definitive pairings in the remaining bowls are still subject to some last-minute changes, depending on the availability of schools like Florida and Notre Dame. As of this morning, the bowl picture was as confusing as ever. Which teams are heading to the Flamingo? Beats me. They've narrowed it down to the third-place team in the Big Eight versus the sixth-place team in the Big Ten. Unless it's snowing in Minnesota on Friday. Then it'll be the fifth-place team in the SEC versus the winner of Yale-VMI. That is unless Doug Flutie transfers to Kansas State, in which case it'll be Arizona versus an all-star team from Army, Navy and Air Force. Or Notre Dame. Or the Miami Dolphins. Or France.
Wait a minute. What Flamingo Bowl?
Once upon a time, the only bowls that people paid attention to were the New Year's Day bowls -- the Rose, Cotton, Sugar and Orange -- because they featured major conference champions and alluring independents. Others, like the Sun, the Gator and the Tangerine (now the Florida Citrus) settled for some also-rans. Then, in 1959, the Liberty and the Bluebonnet popped up to service still more also-rans and, in 1968, the Peach was created to scrounge up another two also-rans. Within the last 15 years bowl games have appeared like toadstools after a summer rain: the Fiesta, the Independence, the Hall of Fame, the Holiday, the California, the Aloha, and two brand new ones, the Freedom and the Cherry.
My feeling is, why quit now?
Why not make sure every deserving team in America gets a bowl bid?
(Here's an anecdote about the proliferation of bowls as told by my esteemed colleague, Shirley Povich: In the early 1950s, when the Tangerine Bowl was only a few years old, Povich happened to be in Orlando, site of the bowl. The bowl's publicist, courting national attention, asked Povich to write something. "Who's in it?" Povich asked. Proudly, the publicist said, "We've got Emory & Henry all sewed up, and West Chester State is nibbling.")
Enough said. Here are some bowls whose time has come:
The Probation Bowl. Obviously this is a bowl game for teams that are barred from bowl games because they have been caught cheating. You could play this one at a prison, like in the movie "The Longest Yard," and you could get around the ban on televising games involving cheaters by giving the proceeds to charity. A good match-up for this year's game would be Clemson and Florida. To add zest to the telecast, the Probation Bowl could put Charley Pell in the broadcast booth. Pell, the former coach at both Clemson and Florida, is uniquely qualified to comment on how each school cheated, since he was responsible for NCAA rules violations at both places.
The Dangerfield Bowl. Named for Rodney, who gets no respect. This bowl will match teams that year after year are high on the list as everybody's homecoming opponent. Rice, Northwestern, Columbia and Colorado would be swell choices this year, as they would be most years. Indiana, Duke and Oregon State might also be in contention. Rather than put the Dangerfield Bowl in a city that also gets no respect, let's have it in Key West or Palo Alto. Give the long-suffering alumni and students a break. But to keep schools from deliberately finishing 0-11 each year, let's limit Dangerfield Bowl appearances to one per decade.
The Tidy Bowl. This game is for those schools which fall particularly short of their lofty preseason expectations. Pittsburgh, which was ranked as high as No. 3 in preseason polls and is currently lounging at 2-7-1, would be a shoo-in for this year's inaugural. Alabama, at 4-6, would be a strong contender. And we should not overlook Arizona State, No. 1 in some preseason rankings and bogged down at 5-5. And Iowa, at 6-4-1, Michigan, at 6-5, or both Penn State and Notre Dame, which still can finish 6-5. Since all these schools have spent the season slogging around, the Tidy Bowl should be played in an appropriate site. Why not New Year's Eve in Point Barrow, Alaska?
The Oz Bowl. This is for teams that finally found the yellow brick road and followed it all the way to fame and fortune. TCU and Virginia get my votes this season because they have been so far down for so long. But unquestionably South Carolina and Army, a shocker at 6-3-1, deserve a trip somewhere. Perhaps the Oz Bowl could be a doubleheader? A purist might say play it in Kansas, but I think Disneyland is a better choice, don't you? Right under Magic Mountain.