Northern Illinois-Florida State Orange Bowl: Better than poker reruns
But it's not. It's a faux spectacle that gives the bowl organizers an opportunity to wring more than $2 million in required ticket sales out of NIU.
When the matchup was announced on Sunday, there was a lot of hot air being pushed back and forth between ESPN talking heads ripping NIU for making it into a BCS bowl and fans defending the little guy.
But because every bowl after the BCS national championship is basically an exhibition, I can't get worked up over this so-called controversy, for either side.
The bowl season is good for one thing: With the exception of Christmas, I can turn on my TV every day between Dec. 20 and Jan. 7 and a pro or college game will be on. I don't know how the teams were picked, nor do I care. But I do know that football will be on a nearly constant loop, and that's what matters most in TV land.
That's also what allows bowl games to extort money from mandatory ticket allotments from participating schools. You would think colleges and universities, which employ some of the smartest people in America, would look at a situation in which they are guaranteed to lose money and say, "This isn't a good idea."
But they don't. Why? Perceived recruiting advantages, for one. If they get to spend Christmas in Shreveport, La., practicing for the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, we need to get into a bowl game, too.
So even though there will be enough football on in the next month to have the yard lines permanently embossed in your TV screen, it also means we're stuck with a lot of matchups featuring middling teams in games that don't count for much. It's better than poker reruns, I guess.
If NIU were to upset Florida State in the NCAA tournament, it would be great because it would mean something, like all those March upsets helped Gonzaga build a new arena and Butler join a better conference.
What happens if the Huskies win the Orange Bowl? Are they on their way to being the next Boise State, becoming nomads searching the conference frontier for a league that will take them? How much money would have to be poured into the football program to do it?
In basketball, the tournament sells itself. In football games, the bowls need popular teams to sell their games. It's nice having all these games on TV because you can stumble across one that turns into a great game, like the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl. But having teams with national profiles will put a lot more butts in seats and eyeballs in front of TVs to begin with.
It would seem unfair that NIU needed planets to realign and has to come up with all that money in ticket sales just for the right to play a Florida State team that advanced via the ACC's automatic bid. But bowl games aren't fair. They're businesses, non-profit status or not.
- Howard Primer