It’s the 3rd Quarter. The head coach from one team looks across at the team he used to coach the year before and grins. Fielding H. Yost is coaching the University of Michigan team against the Stanford University team and has to be feeling good about himself. He is winning on this day, January 2nd 1902, 49-0. Surely he is going to win this East-West Tournament game that a committee created to help pay for the Rose Parade. To Yost’s even further delight, the Stanford team QUITS. They just walked off the field and concede victory to Yost and his Wolverines. But it’s a bittersweet outcome. The lost was so bad and humiliating that the Rose Bowl committee decided not to play the game again. For the next 13 years they ran chariot races, ostrich races and other oddities instead of football to offset the cost of their beloved Rose Parade. The Rose Bowl Football Game was not played again until 1916.
Let’s fast-forward 99 years. Guess where we find ourselves? Our Rose Bowl game is being hijacked again. And it has been periodically for some years now. The Bowl Championship Series would from time to time bully the Pac-12 and Big 10 around and use the Rose Bowl game for their last matchup to determine all the marbles. Everyone saw it as a privilege and never thought much about it. But now the Rose Bowl, as we have grown accustomed to, may be gone forever.
With the new College Football Playoff (CFP), the Rose Bowl is now part of a six bowl game consortium that rotates the six games in pairs every three years to host the semi-finals a week before the big Championship Game. The Rose Bowl is paired with the Sugar Bowl. The Championship Game will be played in different cities based on the best bids of interested cities. When the bowl games are not in rotation for use as semi-final games they will resume their regular match-ups minus whatever teams are involved in the College Football Playoff. So the Rose Bowl, the “Granddaddy of them all” will now be in service to "them all” through the year 2025.
This year we have foreigners, the Florida State Seminoles in the Rose Bowl. It seems like it would have made more sense to have the Ohio State Buckeyes as the opponent for the Oregon Ducks. But because of the seeding process and the unbelievable and predictable SEC bias, the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will play Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl because they are the lowest ranked seed out of the last four. This is done so you can supposedly have the best matchup and not end up with a Final that is not as good as one of the semi-finals that precede it. But with the obvious switching of seeds and last minute leap frogging that happened and will continue to happen with a “Final Four” playoff, it is hard to determine exactly what match-ups are best. It would have been nice to leave the Rose Bowl intact this year because it was possible. An Oregon-Ohio State matchup winner versus an Alabama-Florida State winner would have been the FINAL TO END ALL FINALS!! WHAT COULD BE BETTER????
As a representative and self-imposed “ambassador” of the Pac-12 and West Coast football in general, I have spent many days arguing where the best football is really played and where “”the best” players come from. Obviously it is all subjective, but an Oregon win would give me the type of ammunition that would last for years to come. With an intact Rose Bowl, Ohio State or Oregon would have giving me bragging rights about the best bowl game at least. I know for some of you, that is sacrilege. Husky fans pulling for the Ducks is like Iran pulling for Iraq. But lets face it. Sometimes anything is better than the infidels from the SEC. You have to think bigger than just your neighborhood.
I guess my issue is just a matter of being a kid that has grown up in LA and Pasadena, and always having the Rose Bowl as part of the backdrop for major college football. The Rose Bowl has been the identity of college football on the West Coast for as long as I can remember. Obviously, I know that it has not only been matchups between the Pac-12 and Big10, but those matchups have come to define it in recent times. The Rose Bowl tradition has certainly been interrupted lately and interrupted for no that great of an idea. I know the NCAA is trying to get it right and will probably expand this format before it expires in 2025. But I also know the system is for sale. ESPN bought the rights to the College Football Playoff for 7 billion dollars. At the end of the day it’s all about the almighty buck and getting it right, runs a distant second. Our bragging rights and debates come a distant who knows what.