Bowled Over

Throughout most of the college football world, it generally works like this: you win more games than you lose and you become bowl eligible.


But North Texas can be found nowhere within the college football atlas. At least not this year.

The UNT (go ahead, say "unt" if you want) Eagles - commonly known as the "Mean Green" - from of Denton, Texas, 76209, were more or less just Meager Green this season, checking in at 5-6. North Texas lost to the likes of Louisiana Monroe, South Florida, and Troy State. And their victories came against powerhouses such as Arkansas State, Louisiana Lafayette, and Idaho.

Still, the Eagles are bowl bound. By virtue of winning the Sun Belt Conference.

North Texas is heading to New Orleans, to the New Orleans Bowl, to face Colorado State, which finished second in the Mountain West Conference. North Texas is only the fifth bowl team with a losing record in the 100-year history of bowls (the last was William & Mary in 1970, which lost 40-12 to Toledo in the Tangerine Bowl - which wilted in 1982 only to be replanted this year as the Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl). North Texas hasn't played in a bowl game since its 28-6 spanking by New Mexico State in the '59 Sun Bowl; prior to that, North Texas lost 13-6 to Nevada in the 1948 Salad Bowl - pass the dressing please - and triumphed 14-13 over Pacific in the 1946 Optimist Bowl.

North Texas does, however, have four national championships - consecutive national championships, no less - in men's golf (1949-52).

Let's see, where was I going from there.? Oh yeah, nowhere, kind of like where the New Orleans Bowl is going.

Not that the Dec. 18th NO Bowl is not going to be (my perspective, as I write before Dec. 18th) a good game or was not (your perspective, as you read after the 18th) a good game - it may prove to be one of the better bowls; UNT won five of its last six games (that's right, the Eagles started 0-5) to become - cough - "bowl eligible," and CSU won four of its last five.

It's just that we really don't need another bowl.

Especially one that will feature a low-end-of-the-totem pole football conference (the Sun Belt - and, some may argue, also the Mountain West). Especially one without a sponsor (a bowl just isn't a bowl anymore without some big corporate name - and bucks - attached to it). Especially one that is only projected to draw 15,000 - whose cheers will make nothing more than a Superecho in the 77,000-seat, Louisiana Superdome.

Last year gave birth to the Silicon Valley "Classic" and the prestigious Bowl. In 1999, the GMAC bowl (formerly the Mobile, Alabama Bowl) made the list. And now this year the New Orleans Bowl debuts along with the aforementioned brushed-off version of the Tangerine Bowl.

What all this amounts to is 25 games in 2 1/2 weeks. Or college football dilution.

Sure, an orgy of games is great for couch potatoes and for the ABC/ESPN family, which airs all the bowls save four.

But for the players and purists, which the college game is supposed to, or was intended to, be about, more bowls mean less esteem.

Making it to a bowl game no longer indicates - and hasn't for some years - that your team is great. Good? Yes (in a majority of cases, anyway). But tell me any team out there - in any sport at any level - that strives, merely, for goodness, instead of that adjective's big brother.

In other words, having so many bowls does this: at best, rewards mediocre teams; at worst, detracts from those (like the Miami Hurricanes this year) that have achieved perfection or the next closest thing.

But knowing what to do about this bowl-games-in-spawning dilemma is about as easy as calculating the formula for the BCS (Bowl Championship Series - the thing that, theoretically, produces a national D-I football champ) in your head.

It isn't as simple as eliminating bowls - you have to grant small conferences (like the Sun Belt) some form of postseason reward for their champs. But you can't give those conferences a slot in major bowls, thus unjustly excluding a major school - can you imagine UNT ever being more bowl-worthy than the 9th best SEC school (this year, Alabama) or even the worst team in the SEC? And you can't just eliminate those small conferences from Division I (at least that's what somebody said).

But the NCAA, as a minimum, should quit creating new bowls (which means it should quit creating new conferences). After all, the Rose Bowl, the oldest bowl, the "Granddaddy of them all," never intended to have such a big family.

And as for the latest, and hopefully last, addition to the family tree, the New Orleans Bowl, who knows? And honestly, who cares? That's another problem with the proliferation of bowls - in the micro ones, like the NO Bowl, there's little interest in the game outside affiliates of the two participating schools. (And a few writers.)

For instance, did you follow closely the Colorado State program this year (or ever)? I didn't/haven't.

And neither am I a fan of North Texas athletics.

Except, of course, for Mean Green men's golf.