The Cash Bowl, or, Why There Will Never Be a College Football Playoff

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Every year about this time, like a bear coming out of hibernation, the pundits begin arguing about college football playoffs. And every year, one hears the same arguments except for the one that doesn't get much prime time: the cash argument. Once upon a time there could have been a football playoff. That once upon a time was back in 1940 when there were 4 major college bowl games and a minor one: the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Sun Bowl. By 1950, the number of bowls had increased from 5 to 8 and by 1970 the number jumped to 11. By 1980, there were 15 bowls and a decade later we had 19. By 2000, the number leaped to 25 and this year there are a staggering 34! So, in a little under 60 years the number of bowls has ballooned almost seven fold and at this rate, we can expect that by 2010 there should be about 45 of them. Give or take a bowl.

Now we still have the same five bowls that we had in 1940, but they've been slightly altered. We now have the Rose Bowl (presented by Citi Corp which probably took a lot of screaming and shirt-ripping to keep the sanctity of Rose Bowl name intact), the FedEx Orange Bowl, the AT&T Cotton Bowl, the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the Brut Sun Bowl. There used to be a Tangerine Bowl and a Peach Bowl, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any tangerines or peaches since they've been replaced with credit cards and chickens. But along with those five major bowls we also have 29 other bowls and of those 34 bowls, all of them, but one, are sponsored bowls. In other words, the name of the sponsor has either been attached to the name of the bowl or it has subsumed the name of the bowl (e.g. the Chick-fil-A Bowl used to be the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, but chickens and peaches didn't go well together so they dropped the peaches).

Some of the bowls have rather unique sponsors. For example, there is the New Mexico Department of Tourism New Mexico Bowl; the St. Petersburg Bowl; the Ford, General Motors and Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights Motor City Bowl (which will probably go bankrupt after the game); the Enterprise Rent-a-Car Texas Bowl; and my personal favorite the Emerald Snack Nuts Bowl. It's only a matter of time before there may be a Trojan Condoms Bowl or even a Ty-D-Bol Toilet Bowl Bowl.

Because there are so many advertisers that want their brand to be televised and to be a part of the December-January "Bowl Frenzy," it has become apparent why there are so many bowls and why marginal teams with six losses can suddenly become "bowl qualified." As a matter of fact, at this rate, they'll need another 22 teams with six losses (or maybe 7) by 2010 to make up the number of "new bowls" that we could have by then. As long as corporations are willing to pay exorbitant corporate dollars to "sponsor" or even create bowl games, there won't be any playoffs as we may think of them. There's too much money at stake not only for the corporations, but for the universities participating in those bowl games. If you want an entire catalogue of all the bowl games and the cash breakdown for 2008, here's what you have:

EagleBank Bowl
$1 million

New Mexico Department of Tourism New Mexico Bowl
$750,000 St. Pete Bowl
$1 million

Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl
$1 million

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Sheraton Hotels Hawaii Bowl

General Motors and Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights Motor City Bowl $750,000

Meineke Car Care Bowl
$1 million

Champs Sports Bowl
$2.25 million

Emerald Snack Nuts Bowl

PetroSun Independence Bowl
$1.1 million Bowl

Valero Alamo Bowl
$2.25 million

Roady's Humanitarian Bowl

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
$2.13 million

Enterprise Rent-a-Car Texas Bowl

Big East

Big 12 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces $600,000

Brut Sun Bowl
$1.9 million

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
$1.6 million

Insight Enterprises Bowl
$1.2 million

Chick-fil-A Bowl
$3.25 million ACC
$2.4 million for SEC

Outback Steakhouse Bowl
$3 million

Toyota Gator Bowl
$2.5 million

Capital One Bowl
$4.25 million

Rose Bowl Presented by Citi
$17 million

FedEx Orange Bowl
$17 million

ATT Cotton Bowl
$3 million

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
$1.7 million

Allstate Sugar Bowl
$17 million

International Bowl

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
$17 million


BCS Championship Bowl

If one tallies all that cash, then here's what's at stake: a total of $128,503,000 for an average of about $3,700,000 per bowl. That means the teams involved in the bowl games make for themselves or their conferences almost $1,850,000 each. These teams may be playing for a lot of things: pride, integrity, a winning season, honor, whatever, but the bottom line is cash with five of the bowl games paying out $17,000,000 each. If the number of new bowls continues as it has, by 2010 that amount would increase to at least $165,000,000 and probably more.

Because of the huge advertising dollars, the chances of there being a college playoff as there is in basketball is and will be highly unlikely unless the NCAA decides to pair off the top 8 AP-UPI teams in the oldest bowl games (Rose, Orange, Sugar, Cotton), extend the season through the end of January, have a semi-final, then a final game and be done with it. Finding a major sponsor for the Bowl of Bowls would be easy. Put one executive each from the biggest sponsoring corporations in a UFC cage. Last corporate executive standing wins. If that doesn't work, then wait until January 8 when everyone can hibernate for yet another year before arguing about playoffs again.

Is that Jim Mora I hear in the background, "Playoffs! Playoffs!"