Writer’s Block: A shame that bowl games about money

It’s a shame that instead of reflecting on a terrific season the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team just had, I can’t stop being frustrated and at times angry about the bowl game they are going to.

Eric Hagen
Eric Hagen

Whether 6-6 as it was in 2012 or 8-4 this year, the football team will be going to the Texas Bowl in Houston, Texas, which airs 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27 on ESPN.

Those who closely follow the Big 10 would correctly note that the Gophers played in Texas last year rather than at a lower-tiered bowl game like the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, Mich., because Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible for postseason play.

So the Gophers were lucky to be in Houston last year, but they should be in Florida this year.

Unfortunately, the president of the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., said days before selections were announced that he wanted Michigan or Nebraska.

Buffalo Wild Wings, a Minnesota-based company, chose the 7-5 (3-5 in the Big 10) Michigan Wolverines for its bowl and the Gator Bowl next selected the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who were 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big 10.

This left the Gophers, who finished 4-4 in the Big Ten, in the Texas Bowl once again, playing a Syracuse team they have played twice in recent years.

How can a team with a worse record play in a better bowl game? Because the Big 10 agreed to it to protect the wealthy corporations’ investments and it cares little for what is fair.

This year, Michigan State earned its spot in the Rose Bowl by beating Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game. Ohio State was still eligible for a BCS at-large game and will play in the Orange Bowl.

The Big 10 has eight bowl affiliations, but may not fill them all if not enough teams have enough wins to be eligible or are on sanctions.

Penn State is still ineligible to play in a bowl game because of the NCAA sanctions following the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse of children and school cover-up scandal.

After the Capital One Bowl, the order the bowls make selections are the Outback Bowl, Buffalo Wild Wings, Gator Bowl, Texas Bowl, Heart of Dallas Bowl and Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

With two teams in the BCS, the Capital One bowl and Outback Bowl could select any team unless it had two fewer wins or two more losses.

The other bowls were free to choose whoever they want, so the Gophers could have finished with 10 wins and still have been relegated to the Texas Bowl because so many teams had similar overall records.

The Wisconsin Badgers had the best record at 9-3 of the non-BCS teams in the Big 10 and are going to the Capital One Bowl.

Gophers’ fans are familiar with getting the short straw in the bowl selection process because of their poor history of fan travel to away games, which would impact the bottom line of the corporations sponsoring these games.

My freshman year at the University of Minnesota was during the 1999 football season.

It was Glen Mason’s third year as head coach of the Gophers and he had made them eligible for a bowl game for the first time in 13 years.

Purdue finished at 7-5 overall (4-4 in the Big 10), but it played in the Outback Bowl, which was still the third best Big 10 bowl game at that time, instead of Penn State and Minnesota. Both those teams had better overall and Big 10 records.

I’m not sure how good Purdue’s reputation for bringing fans to bowl games was at that time, but I’m sure the Outback Bowl representatives were salivating over the prospect of Drew Brees quarterbacking the Boilermakers in that game.

I love the direction Jerry Kill is taking the program, but the Gophers program will likely have to go to the Rose Bowl and consistently finish near the top of the Big Ten before more casual fans and bowl presidents respect the program.