Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bowl System Clearly on Its Heels

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bowl System Clearly on Its Heels

Article excerpt

When you look at Oscar Davenport's game numbers, the

hospitable folks at the Toyota Gator Bowl had little choice

but to award the North Carolina quarterback a Most Valuable

Player trophy.

Yes, his 14 completed passes for 175 yards and one touchdown

were roughly equivalent to Danny Wuerffel's first quarter against

Georgia. But in these difficult economic times for college

football bowl games, you can't say enough about a quarterback

who puts 32 relatives in the seats.

Why, if it wasn't for Davenport's family making the trek from

St. Petersburg, you might have actually been able to hear both a

pin, and a profit margin, drop during North Carolina's 20-13

victory yesterday over West Virginia.

As it was, the Empty Teal Seat Bowl attracted only 52,103 fans

on a picture-perfect day. It's further compelling evidence that

football fans in Jacksonville are as unenthused about mediocre

bowl matchups as they are in Miami, Dallas, Memphis, Tampa, San

Diego and Tucson.

Although the Gator Bowl absorbed some public relation hits from

the University of Miami Hurricanes for passing them over in

favor of West Virginia, can you blame the Gator Bowl Association

for saying no? Had UM been here instead of the Mountaineers,

attendance might have plunged to an embarrassing 40,000.

As it was, the Gator Bowl could at least say it out-drew the

CarQuest Bowl, featuring Miami against Virginia, by almost 6,000

spectators and Tuesday's Orange Bowl by nearly 900.

Still, that's not much of a consolation to a bowl that, like

the rest of its non-Alliance brethren, is struggling to fill

seats and attract television viewers.

"Obviously, the transition period from a good bowl system that

once worked for everybody and trying to establish a national

championship game isn't working," said Gator Bowl Executive

Director Rick Catlett. "I'd rather have a national playoff, but

if we're going to continue in this system, then it needs to go

back to a wider selection process.

"Instead of Big East against the ACC or SEC against the Big

Ten, we need to have the freedom to select anybody we can to get

the best possible matchups."

The Gator Bowl has done all it can to avoid economic suicide.

What's a bowl committee to do when a legitimate Top-10 team like

North Carolina can't sell out its ticket allotment of 11,500 to

a game just a sevenhour drive away?

An estimated 8,000 Tar Heels fans were at Jacksonville

Municipal Stadium, a clear indication that not enough North

Carolinians are prepared to go the extra mile to watch

threepoint field goals that involve a goal post instead of a

rim.

"We thought we had come to a point where we reached some

prominence," said UNC linebacker Kivuusama Mays. …

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