There was a time when college football’s postseason was defined by four glamorous bowl games –the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the Orange Bowl in Miami, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
That was then. This is now.
College football’s popularity has blossomed into a bowl schedule that this season numbered 42 games. Watching over them was Nick Carparelli, executive director of the College Bowl Season.
Carparelli had spent three decades in various college football roles before signing on to this assignment in December, 2019. His timing was not terrific because that was just a couple of months before the coronavirus sent the country into a pandemic and rocked the sports schedule.
The bowls survived, pulled together by Carparelli’s persistence at a difficult time for American sports. “It was tough the first year,’’ he said. “We played 26 of 42 scheduled games last year. It was a challenge, but it was a success. The games that were played were fun games. The goal was to try and pull the 42 games under one umbrella, the Bowl Season brand.’’
College bowl games are part of the fabric of American sports, a tradition that is more than a century old, older than the National Football League, the next stop for so many of the players.
With the COVID-19 virus still disrupting teams and games, the bowl schedule has survived. “We lost five games this year,’’ Carparelli said. “Hawaii, Military, Fenway, Holiday and Arizona.’’
That means that if Georgia and Alabama play the national championship game on Monday night in Indianapolis, 37 of the 42 scheduled games will have survived. That includes the last minute substitution of Rutgers for Texas A&M at the Gator Bowl.
The bowls have evolved over the years into new venues. Carparelli points to the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium and the Fenway Bowl as examples.
“It behooves us to have a presence in all areas of the country,’’ Carparelli said. “It’s our version of March Madness and our television ratings are the highest they have been in years.’’
Don’t look for more games, though. “I think we are at our limit with 42,’’ Carparelli said.
The most successful teams go to the more glamorous bowls. What’s important here is offering the opportunity for all schools to experience the excitement of a postseason game, a reward for a good season and the continuing celebration of college football.