Perhaps you can still summon the outrage you felt when New Mexico and Southern Mississippi, both of which finished with 6-5 records last year, did not receive bowl bids. You may still be anguished by the humiliation suffered by Wake Forest, another 6-5 team that was forced to stay home. Fortunately the NCAA is there for you. Last week the organization certified three new bowl games for next season, increasing the total number of bowls from 25 to 28. That means 56 of the 117 Division I-A football teams—or nearly 48% of the membership—will play in a postseason game next year.
At a time when reforms to the BCS system have been foremost on the minds of college football observers, what the NCAA has come up with is three more rewards for mediocrity. The new bowl games—the Queen City Bowl in Charlotte (date to be determined), the San Francisco Bowl (Dec. 31) and the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu (Dec. 25)—each will pay participating schools the NCAA-mandated minimum of $750,000 each. Certainly that kind of money is alluring, but even conferences that will benefit from the bowls realize these new games may not exactly be classic matchups. For instance, the San Francisco Bowl will pit the third best team from the Mountain West Conference against the third, fourth or fifth pick from the Big East. Using last year's standings, that would have meant a match-up between Colorado State (7-5) and Pittsburgh (6-5). "The general sentiment is, 'Oh, God, just what we need,' " says Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson.
With schedules going from 11 games to 12 next year, the possibility of 6-6 bowl teams is quite real. That would seem to diminish the prestige of making it to the postseason. "The definition of a reward for excellence has been debated," says Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, the chairman of the NCAA subcommittee that approved the new bowls. "But letting more student-athletes have an opportunity to experience a bowl game is a positive thing."