Opting out of college bowl games

By Roger Grossman
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — I started writing about this a few weeks ago, but stopped typing because other things took precedence.

Now that the college football season is over, it’s time.

College football has crossed over the line from being broken to being in full-blown crisis mode.

Why do I say that? Bowl game opt outs.

College bowl season used to be one of the best two weeks of the entire sports calendar. It was the time when you could literally watch multiple football games a day played in places that were warm when it most definitely was not warm here.

We got to see teams play who we had heard about since August but hadn’t actually seen them live.

Plus, because teams often don’t play for a month between their final regular season game and their bowl game, there was an air of unpredictability that came with it.

It was fun.

Not so much anymore.


Because too many of the best senior and junior players aren’t playing in the bowl games.
They are opting out.

Let me explain.

College football players who are planning to make themselves available for the NFL Draft in April are making the decision not to play in their team’s bowl game.

No one would ever have considered doing that before what happened to Jaylon Smith.

Smith was a Notre Dame linebacker from Fort Wayne Luers who was injured in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day of 2016. Smith suffered what anyone would consider a catastrophic knee injury in that game. All of the software in his knee, and some of the hardware in there too, was damaged.

A complete rebuild of his knee was required and no one knew if he would even play another down of football again.

He was destined to be drafted in the first round before, but it seemed his NFL dream was over.

The Cowboys stunned everyone by taking Smith with the 34th overall selection in the 2016 draft when it seemed like no one would want someone so physically damaged at all.
It forced players to take a long, hard look at the possibility that the same thing could happen to them with no NFL team waiting to write them paychecks anyway.
That makes sense to us, right?

These players who are choosing not to play in their team’s bowl games are making a business decision to protect their value heading into draft day.

The players who aren’t opting out are the ones who are on teams making the College Football Playoff. That’s been four teams up to now, but it will grow to 12 teams starting next football season.

What does opting out look like?

Florida State went unbeaten but got left out of the CFP. I believe the number of players who chose not to play for the Seminoles in their bowl game against Georgia was 23.
Georgia beat FSU 63-3, giving the ‘Noles their only loss of the season, and causing Bulldog coach Kirby Smart to speak out.

“People need to see what happened tonight, and they need to fix this,” Smart said. “It’s very unfortunate that they have a good football team and a good football program and the’re in the position theY’re in.”

Totally agree.

But what do you do?

Here’s what’s waiting at the bottom of this slippery slope college football is on.

The screams for college athletes to be paid are getting louder and louder. But when that happens (and I believe we are less than five years from that happening), high school kids will be signing contracts. Those contracts will mean players won’t be able to opt out of games to protect their own interests or transfer to wherever they like.

So, what do we do?

The reality is no one cares about the sport (or college sports in general) enough to do anything meaningful about it. As long as sponsors keep paying for bowl game title sponsorships, bowl games will go on as scheduled. But they will look more like spring football scrimmages with the exception of there being two schools represented,
broadcast on TV and with kicking plays included.

I’ll tell you what I plan to do if this keeps going this way…I’ll be opting out of watching bowl games.

If they don’t care enough to fix it, why should I care enough to watch it?