Importance of going bowling in college football
There are a calendar-filled 39 bowl games this winter season.
The bowls come in all sorts of stripes, commercial packages and weather conditions.
Some pay the participating teams well. Some don’t pay enough for the schools, which bring their bands, athletic administration families and fundraising boosters, to break even.
In West Virginia’s case, its payment from the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl is $1.2 million. The WVU athletic department must share its bowl money with the other nine schools in the Big 12 Conference. That’s not so bad, because every school in the conference that has a bowl date must do the same thing with its respective bowl money. And eight of the 10 teams in the league are going bowling this winter.
How is this particular bowl game a reward for the players?
Every player in the traveling party gets to participate in daily or nightly events in Dallas or the surrounding area that bring them watches, sports apparel, athletic shoes, electronic gadgets, gift certificates and tickets to professional sporting events.
Lavish lunches and suppers are provided. Steak, lobster, prime rib and other seafood not found on campus in Morgantown come in a steady stream of orchestrated outings.
The players also visit hospitals, wounded military and first responders in the area and see children with life-threatening conditions.
There are “mixers,” during which the players from Utah are also in attendance. The food at those is often world-class and plentiful.
Players and coaches receive Dallas- or Texas-themed souvenirs.
In other words, the players are feted in every way legally possible under NCAA rules.
West Virginia’s coaches use any bowl trip as a vital recruiting tool. If a school can’t qualify for a bowl, that bit of futility can be used by the competition as a smear against the program. Focusing on the list of recent bowls the school has attended is a positive recruiting topic.
With the season being extended by more than three weeks, the coaching staff uses the time to evaluate redshirt freshmen and the younger players and give them what can be used as more individual-attention practice time.
Running back Justin Crawford has made it known that he intends to enter the NFL draft, so the coaches have some time to adjust to his absence. Also, quarterback Will Grier will miss the game, and the added practices are used to make any changes needed to make the offense more effective with his replacement guiding it.
WVU’s coaching staff sees the time between semesters as days or weeks without distractions or parallel schedules that usually include school work and classes.
The athletic administration receives an allotment of tickets to the game, which it’s asked to sell. If its allotment isn’t completely sold, it could mean buying some of the unused tickets and distributing them to a civic organization, hospital or active military personnel.
The historic Cotton Bowl, site of this game on December 26, won’t even attempt to sell any tickets in the second deck or upper tier of seats. The upper deck will be closed for this game.
This Zaxby’s-sponsored bowl isn’t the same as the prestige-loaded Sugar, Rose, Orange or Fiesta Bowls. But it will be promoted and marketed as just a tad below those heavily anticipated matches.
Winning has some importance. But just attending is even more important.
Don’t miss all of the 39 bowls available. Doing so is not good for a head coach’s longevity. Doing so adds intense pressure the next season. Beating Utah won’t save a job, but it’s another positive fact to aim at recruits – at boosters – and at sometimes-frowning alumni bent on visiting more prestigious bowls.