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Dispatches: Talking Football With SMQ, Part Four

In SMQ's Part Three of our Dispatches, he deftly answers my question about how a program like Texas ought to manage its non-conference schedule. You're strongly encouraged to read what he has to say about Texas, why undefeated is more than likely going to be enough, but why there exists little to no margin for error.

SMQ concludes by returning to a question he asked earlier, which I conveniently ignored. Namely, has the current bowl format taken all the fun out of a majority of the bowls? Doesn't it seem like there used to exist solid pairings in many bowls? Or are we just being nostalgic?

I do get the same sense, SMQ. And I wonder if it's me, or the system. I am reminded of the (many) catcalls we heard from BCS opponents when the current system was first implemented. Still, it's hard to remember whether I -ever- really cared that much.

And here's where a little history lesson can be illuminating.

Up until 1984, the NCAA had a virtual death grip on college football and its television distribution. Enter: the Supreme Court. In 1984, the high court heard NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, and ruled in the favor of the universities, effectively empowering them (and, by extension, their conferences) to control and negotiate their own television contracts. Slowly, surely, this worked its way into how postseason matchups were determined and broadcast to the general public.

Remember, before the BCS we had the Bowl Coalition and the Bowl Alliance, each of which did reasonably well at pairing the best of the best in the same bowls. Think 1992-94: Miami-Alabama, Florida State-Nebraska, Nebraska-Miami.

But it's not like things stopped there, nor - looking at how things were unilaterally unfolding after the 1984 Supreme Court ruling - was there any reason to believe it would. The tide of momentum was sweeping towards these gigantic, end-all bowls. Well short of a playoff, sure, but still a concerted and dramatic shift of the focus off of traditional bowls and into these hyper-marketed big money games.

Is it any wonder, then, that we find ourselves - here, now, in 2006 - thinking, "Gee, this seems a lot different than it used to."?  It probably shouldn't surprise us, and it speaks to the other part of your question: with the uber-focus on the post-January 1 bowls, the rest of the postseason looks rather superfluous, by comparison.

Even with all that, I think there may be something more at play here, and I'll posit my hypothesis and query you for your opinion on this. It might also be that college football is experiencing greater parity than it ever has. Part of the reason that none of these bowl matchups look very enticing might just be because many of these teams don't look all that good. The talent is dispersed so evenly (relatively speaking) these days, that we're lacking a pack of frontrunners that we can all get pretty excited about. And when you start pairing hordes of B+ teams together, the end result can leave the college football fan underwhelmed.

I might be wrong about this, though, SMQ. Your thoughts? You too, readers.