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Bowl Games Pay Off Big For Programs Like Ole Miss

Photo taken from wikipedia.org
Photo taken from wikipedia.org

The Fall season is coming to a close. For college football teams, that means the beginning of the bowl season.

Whether it’s the Rose Bowl or the BBVA Compass Bowl, these games provide major benefits to college programs.

All season long teams scratch and crawl to reach the postseason. For some teams like Alabama, Ohio State or LSU, achieving bowl eligibility isn’t on their mind. They’re more concerned about winning every game and reaching the BCS championship.

But for up-and-coming programs like Ole Miss, bowl eligibility does amazing things. The most immediate benefit is getting the extra few weeks of practice and time to work on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. So instead of sitting at home for all of December, players are working out, practicing and getting better. That cuts an entire month of off time between the season’s end and spring practice.

Consider those extra practices to be like mini-camp or mini-spring practice. With the additional reps, players move into spring practice with more experience and become better conditioned all-around athletes. Plus, players are rewarded for their hard work during the season. Coaches of bowl-bound teams welcome the chance of visiting the homes of prized recruits to woo them with stories of a winning program. “You can be part of this,” is a seductive line after any bowl victory.

“It’s big time,” Joker Phillips, former Kentucky head coach, said in a 2010 interview. “For us to continue to grow the program the way we talk about, these extra practices are key for us. We’re able to get almost a whole spring practice with these young guys and try to develop (them), especially the quarterbacks. It gives them a better grasp of things. It gives them a chance to come out in the spring and compete.”

The national recognition from playing on ESPN or any of the major networks helps schools sell themselves to recruits that may not have even considered Oxford, Miss. as an option before. A high school athlete in Oregon naturally thinks the West Coast is a good fit. But an Ole Miss win in the Liberty Bowl just might entice them to start whistling Dixie. At least they might get on Google and do a little research.

None of this happens without bowl eligibility – even if it’s the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss’ head coach, has said in numerous interviews how important the win in the BBVA Compass Bowl was to the team’s momentum heading into the offseason. That momentum resulted directly in a top-five class for the Rebels, which featured several superstars at their high school positions. Where would the Rebs have been this year without Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell or Tony Connor?

Bowl eligibility, and hopefully a win, gives teams who finished the season on a sluggish pace some extra zip going into the offseason.

If you’re in a conference like the SEC, all money made from bowl game participation is essentially put into a big pot and divided evenly between the 14 schools. Nice deal if you can get it — Ole Miss gets the same SEC payoff as Alabama does for a more glamorous bowl game appearance.

The SEC announced earlier this year that the 2012-2013 bowl revenue distribution was $289.4 million. That’s a little more than $20 million for each of the 14 conference schools. For programs like Ole Miss, it’s a huge benefit to go to a game itself and to cheer as many other SEC rivals on to bowl Heaven as possible.

Next season, the Football Bowl Subdivision (Formerly Division I-A) will implement a four-team playoff instead of taking the top two-ranked teams in the BCS polls. There’s talk of expanding the playoffs to eight or more.That may be a great system for deciding a national champion, but if you have a playoff with more than eight teams, you start cutting into bowl selectees and diluting bowl game quality even further.

Not having the chance to sell your school through postseason play would diminish recruiting opportunities. I see the present bowl system as a boon to the little guy with slim chances to make it to the national championship. Winning seven or eight games in a season isn’t easy, especially in the SEC. So a bowl game — any bowl game — is good for college football and good for Ole Miss.

And one last thing, a Rebel bowl appearance is a reward for all Ole Miss fans. One more chance to scream the Hotty Toddy cheer, one last moment to cheer on our team, our Pride of the South Band and celebrate an enduring spirt that never quits.

–Justin Taylor, Associate Editor, HottyToddy.com

–You can email Justin at justin.taylor@hottytoddy.com

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