I have a crazy Oregon Duck friend who had extra Rose Bowl tickets, so he took my two high school boys and me. We wore green Oregon shirts to honor his sacrifice, and we were pretty sure we’d see a good game. We didn’t. We watched an incredible game. Not only was the contest great, the atmosphere around this bowl is incredible: The parade, the mass of partisan fans from around the country, the tailgate fiestas. As well, the economic and cultural impact to the city of Pasadena is immeasurable - though the Rose Bowl officially reports that it has a $180 million dollar economic impact.
Like a lot of folks, I am tired of having polls or the BCS formula decide which two teams get to play for the national championship. I would much rather have seen Oklahoma State get their shot at LSU, because two-loss Oregon and one-loss Alabama already got theirs. And as a die-hard Mountaineer fan, I know we’re rarely going to get the benefit of the doubt if it comes down to an SEC team or us. There has to be a solution that gives more teams a legitimate shot at playing for the big prize at season’s end.
But I love the bowl system. I’ve followed WVU to the Sugar Bowl and the Gator Bowl (twice), and there is nothing like a multi-day Mountaineer football festival. People whom I don’t know hug me and buy me meals and drinks. I don’t get to WVU home games often because I live thousands of miles away from Morgantown, so bowls are usually the only time I get to see the Pride of West Virginia play "Hail West Virginia" in person.
Last night I was a guest at a bowl game between two teams who weren’t playing for the BCS National Championship. But the Rose Bowl itself was a championship atmosphere. If we lose the bowls in our quest for a clear national champion, the fans will be the big losers in the end. The amount of money these non-profits bowl organizations generate for their communities aside, the average fan of a good college football team is not going to have these experiences very often if all we get is a playoff akin to that of Division II & III NCAA Football.
I can book a hotel and a flight in an hour. That’s not the problem. The logistics associated with putting on a great bowl game experience take months and months of planning. The Rose Bowl website claims its parade and game require 80,000 man-hours by 935 volunteers. I’d hate to think that so many fans of really good teams might never get to have a bowl experience.
That’s why mid-Rose Bowl (about the time De'Anthony Thomas was getting his second huge touchdown run) I became a supporter of the "Plus One" format proposal. It will give fans the best of both worlds. A committee similar to the one that picks the teams for the NCAA basketball tournament will determine which four teams go to that year's designated "Semi-final" Bowl games.
Two weeks after the semi-final bowls, a national championship game is played at a neutral site. Four teams can make all the logistical plans they need to ahead of time. Fans can make tentative plans as they do when their basketball team might get to the Final Four. The NCAA can set up the championship game details for whichever teams and fan bases, as they do the Final Four.
This way the other football teams in America (70 schools played in bowl games this year) get to give their fan bases one final thrill of the season. I know the crazy Duck fans I was with were ecstatic with their first Rose Bowl victory in 95 years.