Posted by: furmanbisher | January 5, 2009

Yes, There Once Was a Salad Bowl

Honest, do you really think that there are 68 college football teams worthy of being called “bowl teams?” Does it not tarnish—I started to use “bastardize,” but I guess that doesn’t apply—the real meaning of “bowl,” how it originated and what it supposed to stand for: Reward for a season successfully played.

Does any team that loses six games have any reason to be in a bowl game, especially one that also lost six games? Sixty-eight teams rewarded with post-season invitations? Four more teams than make it to the NCAA Basketball Championship. These are Division 1 schools which operate in “Bowl Subdivision Conferences,” Frankly, I have not an inkling of what that means. “Subdivision” to me has the ring of something second class, but I always thought that was Division 1-A, which leads me nowhere.

What I’m getting at is, you don’t have to be good to get to play in a bowl game. Three teams that won only six games in season won bowl games. Florida Atlantic beat Central Michigan, Colorado State beat Fresno State and Vanderbilt beat Boston College. And in case you watched it, as I did, Florida Atlantic brought Howard Schnellenberger back to the screen, looking very much like an old character actor. (Melvyn Douglas comes to mind here.)

Schnellenberger—ah, here’s an old warrior who won a national championship at Miami many moons ago. It was an Orange Bowl game in which Nebraska had the national championship in hand. The Hurricane held the lead into the late going, when Nebraska scored and could have tied the game and sewed up its championship. Instead, for reasons beyond most of us, Tom Osborne decided to go for two, while around television sets across the country a lot of us experts cried out, “Kick it, Tom! Kick it! All you need is a tie and the national championship is yours!


He never heard us. He called on Turner Gill to drop back for a two-point pass, which missed, and Schnellenberger merely waltzed into the national championship. Ol’ Schnelly has been around the block a few times since then, and when Florida Atlantic, a puppy just out of the kennel, decided to get into football about ten years ago, who should surface but Schnellenberger, and with his 6-6 team, wins the Motor City Bowl. (And with the automobile industry in such shabby condition, how on earth did Detroit manage to come up with a pot for a bowl game?)

Who could ever consider these bowl games without suggesting that maybe Utah is #1? You’d probably get Alabama’s vote. The Utes took charge of that game and never blushed. They just haven’t quite got the notion in the Deep South that Utah doesn’t get its mail by Pony Express any more, and while Utah doesn’t get much time on Sports Center like the Eastern dandies, they still play a pretty high-class grade of football out there.

With that, so much for my view on bowl football, and in closing, let it be said I could care less who wins the—what is it, BCS Game, or Orange?—game. And how could I close without telling you there was, indeed, once a Salad Bowl.


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