Bowl Games

“There sure seem to be a lot of bowl games these days.”


My mom-in-law came to visit after Christmas. I enjoy having her around.  She’s witty, opinionated, and willing to indulge my sometimes serious, often-times satirical, opinions on whatever topic she brings forth.  She’s a conversationalist; something sorely missing in a world filled with status updates, tweets…and blogs!


One thing she wholly admits to having little interest in, is sports. In this case college football.  But she has a point.  According to the infallible Wikipedia, this year there are 41 college football bowl games.  So many that this year the NCAA had to change its eligibility rules to allow 5-win teams to receive bowl invites.  Granted, the three teams that were 5-7 when invitations were issued (Nebraska, Minnesota, and San Jose State) all won their final game.  Yep, they charged into bowl season with 6-7 records!


And how did they fare? Well, all the doomsayers and negative-Nancys can go pound sand.  Nebraska, San Jose St., and Minnesota went 3-0!!  The “losers” were able to pull their end of season records to .500 against UCLA (8-5), Georgia State (6-7), and Central Michigan (7-6) respectively.  Great stories for the individual teams; but is it a great story that helped their bowl stand out?


The first college “bowl game” was the Tournament East-West football game, established in 1902 as a way to pay for the annual Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena. It became an annual fixture in 1916, became the Rose Bowl with the construction of a new stadium in 1923, and for another 12 years was the only college bowl game in the nation. Every decade after that (with the exception of the 50s) 3 or 4 new bowl games were added to the total.  Then came cable TV…


In the 90s there were 6 more bowl games. Then in the 2000s 10 new games were added.  In the 2010s we’ve added 6 new games so far with 3 more starting next year and another 5 to be determined.  This doesn’t take into account the 18 bowl games that are now defunct or 10 rivalry games that carry a “bowl” nickname.


So what does all this mean to anyone other than a DeVos MBA student hungry to be the next Moneyballer? Bowl games have been commoditized.  Unless your team is in a playoff bowl contending for a national championship, you and the others dressed like you cheering at the sports bar are the only ones who care.  Being a “fill-in-the-blank bowl champion” just means that you got to see your team play one more time.  Like so much bottled spring hydration, the bowl scene has become the Publix water isle.  One bowl game in red.  One in blue.  Oh look, this one has a picture of Houston, TX on it.  Didn’t it used to have a bluebonnet?  To be recognized, bowl games had to differentiate themselves.  For example, the game where San Jose State beat Georgia State (the two most underperforming teams) also raised a substantial amount of money for cancer research.  In this way, the game chose to BE something by DOing something.


In 2016 UCFs College of Business will award over 2000 Bachelor’s degrees. The graduates who leave with an awesome opportunity waiting for them did things that set them apart from the other bowl games.  They volunteered.  They worked on unique projects.  They had internships.  They found mentors and mentored others.  They joined clubs, lead clubs, and started new clubs.  They got engaged and then engaged others.  To BE something, they understood that instead of talking about things, they had to DO things.  They’re DO Leaders.  The graduates who chose to remain a commodity didn’t attract “bowl eligible” offers.


Whether you’re one of the 2000+ that we graduate this year, or one of the nearly 2,000,000 students nation-wide that will earn a Bachelor’s degree in 2016, I challenge you to do things that will make you unique. Because unlike days gone by when all you needed to be special was a conference tie-in and a sunny destination, today it takes a lot more to make you special.


There sure seem to be a lot of business grads today…



Big thanks to my friend and classmate Tena Rester Zochert and her family for lending me their picture from the LSU / Texas Tech bowl game in Houston.  Tena, her husband Skylar, and her daughters Brooke and Taylor are great examples of “DO Leaders.”  I think she learned it from her mom!  🙂