College football bowl season has just ended, and like everything having to do with college football, it means only one thing:
Ha ha, ha. Yes, I'm laughing too.
No, it means, of course, money. And lots of it.
Virtually every college football head coach in America, and most assistants too, receive bonuses when their teams qualify for a bowl game. For the head coaches, the bonuses sometimes hit six figures.
"Hey honey, we're goin' to a bowl game. Time to buy a couple of new houses!"
But why shouldn't the coaches get those bonuses? Playing in a bowl game is a major achievement for any football program. Right?
Well, here's how much of an achievement it is in 2014-2015.
There were 38 bowl games, and since two teams play in each bowl game, a total of 76 college teams made it to a bowl (and who says they don't teach math in college?).
That's right, 76 teams. Still pretty good, huh?
Sure. Until you apply that math stuff again.
76 teams played in bowl games, out of a total of... 128 (FBS -- the big schools) teams. That comes out to 59 percent of all schools making a bowl game, nearly two-thirds.
Got that? Nearly two out of every three teams that play big-time college football get into bowls. It's practically like those youth sports programs where everyone who participates gets a trophy. You know, the ones that everyone makes fun of?
But let's instead look at it from a grading point-of-view, because after all, college football is all about grades and education (Yes, I'm laughing too). Let's grade it like a test.
To qualify for a bowl game, on a scale of 100, you need to score at least a... 41.
That's an F.
That's right: You can bring home an F and get a bonus check. A fine example for all you kids out there.
So wouldn't it be better if universities used that money for something more deserving than rewarding an F?
For example, here at the University of Illinois-Urbana, where I teach, the football team played in a bowl game, the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl. Of course you've heard of it. This year's game drew 31,297 fans, the lowest attendance in its glorious five-year history.
According to most experts, the University of Illinois was one of the last teams to get into a bowl game. USA Today ranked Illinois as the 77th best college football team this year. Out of 128 teams.
That's a score of 40. That's a hard F.
For earning an F, Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman received a bonus of $32,000. Enough to buy a new car. But, of course, he doesn't need a car, because the University already provides he and his wife with free cars. Maybe they'll buy a boat.
So what's the big deal, you might ask. It's only $32,000.
Exactly. It's only $32,000. What could $32,000 mean to someone who is already paid $1.8 million per year? Someone who is going to get an automatic $100,000 raise next year anyway?
I can only guess, since I'm not in that tax bracket, but probably not much.
Even so, why reward an F? Why not put that $32,000 to better use?
It could provide nearly free tuition for a full year at the Univ. of Illinois for three Illinois families. Or half price in-state tuition for six families.
It could mean the difference between affording college and not. It could mean the difference between graduating college buried with debt, or not.
It could mean forever changing the lives of six worthy families in Illinois, or it could mean a new boat for a coach who has already been paid more than $5 million over his three-year Illinois career.
Isn't that a simple choice?
Now that would be an F truly worth celebrating.