Even Jimmy Kimmel did not want to be at this thing.
In the third quarter of Washington State’s 29-6 no-show against Fresno State, the Los Angeles-based late-night comedian joined the broadcast team and spent much of the period telling Joe Tessitore and Greg McElroy how bored he was.
Kimmel said he probably would not do this again next year, and clearly wished he was somewhere else.
At least that put him in good company.
A quick glance at the stands confirmed that most fans had little interest in Saturday’s bowl game, and a quick glance at the game rosters confirmed the same for a large number of players. It was enough to leave this columnist wondering – who is this even for anymore?
With the best teams going to a playoff bracket that is going to expand to 12 teams soon, the biggest nonplayoff bowls have lost their luster. Neither Utah nor Penn State is going to have significant national bragging rights following a Rose Bowl win after failing to get an invite to the big dance.
I believe there is a trickle-down effect to the lesser bowls. What were once fun postseason chances for teams to test themselves against opponents from across the country, bowls have turned into something closer to a spring exhibition.
There’s an idea – hold the bowls in the spring, once the transfers have enrolled and the game can serve as an actual prelude to the coming season. With so many players transferring before the bowl game and others opting out to focus on the upcoming NFL draft, the bowls feel meaningless.
I still hear older fans talk about great bowl games from previous decades. Think WSU beating Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl. The Holiday Bowl isn’t a top-tier game, but Cougars fans remember besting a big football school stocked with memorable names that WSU likely never would play otherwise.
Now try to name the past few Holiday Bowl participants. Texas is back this year, and so is Washington. If the Huskies win, will anyone care much knowing that Texas’ star running back Bijan Robinson and others are sitting out?
At the time of Kimmel’s press-box appearance, Fresno State wide receiver Nikko Remigio was wandering around the on-field suites, taking photos and signing autographs for fans.
WSU’s hollowed-out husk of a defense did an admirable job for most of the game, down a defensive coordinator and starting linebacker corps.
The offense did little worth writing home about.
The sad reality being laid bare is the current college football paradigm is going to hurt schools like WSU a lot during bowl season. The Cougars are good enough to have some players the best teams will want to poach, and a couple that might feel best served by preparing for the NFL draft. For Group of Five teams like Fresno State, a midtier bowl with a Power Five opponent can still serve as the ultimate prize at the end of a great season – something meaningful to stick around and play for.
WSU coach Jake Dickert, on the other hand, has coached two bowl games now with a skeleton crew. Both went poorly.
Beyond that, they were boring, and did not feel like a reflection of the season the Cougars put together.
Next year, the Cougars will have a new offensive coordinator, some new linebackers and receivers will transfer in, and I bet the Cougars will put together a pretty good season. And then, what? The key players opt out again?
The NCAA is about to have a new president. First on Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s to-do list should be giving players a reason not to transfer so often. He needs to figure out how to create meaningful postseason games for nonplayoff teams.
Otherwise, Jimmy Kimmel won’t be the only one who stops watching next year.