Bowl games have special place

Published 1:32 am Sunday, January 3, 2010

As the 2009 drew to a close, and a new decade washed upon us, the country’s raging debate continues on.

No, I’m not talking about the health care issue, I’m talking about a college football playoff vs. the BCS.

Every year, the great debate continues, with proponents and opponents of a major college football playoff system beating their arguments into the ground.

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But I’m not here to add to either side of the debate. I am in favor of an eight-team playoff, but I’m not going to scream and shout like some others.

However, whether college football does or doesn’t ever adopt a playoff system, there is something that the sport should never chance — bowl games.

And some of the great games that I’ve had the pleasure to watch over the past week have just reinforced my opinion that the college football bowl system is the greatest way to end a season in sports.

Just look at some of the bowl games we’ve had.

Auburn outlasts Northwestern in the Outback Bowl in perhaps the most surreal fourth quarter and overtime I’ve ever seen.

Arkansas wins an overtime thriller over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl after ECU’s kicker misses two field goals in the final 70 seconds and another in OT.

Penn State marches the length of the field to get a last-minute field goal and defeat LSU in the slop of the Capital One Bowl.

And legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden rides off into the sunset a winner after an upset victory over West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

But the bowl game that did the most to convince me that bowl games really do matter was the Humanitarian Bowl, played in Boise, Idaho, between Bowling Green and Idaho.

Neither team is a football powerhouse to say the least, and they treated the bowl game like a national championship contest.

With the game tied at 35, Bowling Green scored on a long touchdown pass with 32 seconds left.

It looked like the game was over, but after the kickoff, Idaho completed a long pass down to the Bowling Green 16-yard line with 15 seconds left.

After an incomplete pass, the Vandals got into the end zone with just four ticks remaining.

Trailing by one, their coach brazenly decided to go for two, and Idaho converted to pull out a 43-42 victory and set off a wild celebration.

These players didn’t care they were playing in a fourth-tier bowl game against a middle of the road MAC team.

To Idaho, this was one of the biggest wins in school history and they celebrated accordingly.

The day after the game, ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl winning offensive lineman Mark Schlereth, who was a 1989 Idaho graduate, appeared on SportsCenter holding an Idaho football helmet and wearing a grin from ear to ear.

The man won three Super Bowls as a member of the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos, but you could tell Idaho’s victory meant just as much to him as those Super Bowl trophies did.

And that’s what makes bowl games so great.

It’s not like other sports, where only one team wins a championship at the end of the season.

With 34 bowl games, there are 34 teams that get to celebrate and take home a trophy.

Sure it’s not a national championship trophy, but it still means something to the players, fans and alumni.

So no matter what happens with a playoff system, I just hope the bowls are left intact.

They mean too much to too many people to ever do away with them.

Just ask Idaho.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor for The Democrat. He can be reached at