A lot of the blame has been placed on Louisiana Tech athletic director Bruce Van De Velde for the Bulldogs not being selected to play in any bowl game this postseason. But Van De Velde can be considered a victim of the system just as much as everyone else associated with Louisiana Tech football.
Depending on whom you believe, Van De Velde was actually looking out for his team, making sure that the school did not accept a bid prematurely and then find out later that it could have played in a more prestigious bowl.
According to an Independence Bowl official, Louisiana Tech was extended an invitation to the game in Shreveport on Saturday afternoon but turned down the offer (via ESPN). Van De Velde insists that the school asked for more time to decide but was not granted that luxury.
In the end, the Independence Bowl took Ohio University from the Mid-American Conference. When Northern Illinois received an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl, it set off a chain of events that culminated with the Bulldogs being left out.
A 9-3 team with the nation’s top offense and the Sammy Baugh Trophy winner at quarterback is left out of all 35 bowl games. Seventy teams, a handful of which have .500 records or worse, were chosen over Louisiana Tech.
Many of the Louisiana Tech faithful are directing their displeasure towards Van De Velde, including more prominent alumni such as NBA legend Karl Malone. "I am heartbroken and embarrassed that our university would do this to Tech Nation. To our football and staff this is exactly what is wrong with our university,” wrote Malone (via Los Angeles Times).
While the feelings are without a doubt understandable, Malone and other members of “Tech Nation” shouldn’t be directing their animosity toward Van De Velde entirely.
In the heat of the moment, it may be difficult to recognize Van De Velde’s intentions. The athletic director understood that he was negotiating on behalf of a very good football team. A team that took the currently ninth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies to the brink. A team whose three losses this season were to teams ranked in the current BCS standings.
Who would have guessed that not one bowl besides the Independence Bowl would want the Bulldogs to play in its game?
Instead of vilifying Van De Velde, Louisiana Tech fans should be angry at the current system in place.
Bowl games are about money more than anything else. Sure, on the surface, one can make arguments about how it’s a reward for teams that have had a good season and extra practice time for underclassmen. But in the end, it’s all about the bottom line.
That’s why bowls like the Liberty Bowl and Armed Forces Bowl took 6-6 squads instead of a team with one of the most potent offenses in the nation. The Sun Bowl went one step further, extending a bid to Georgia Tech, which finished the regular season with a losing record at 6-7 after losing to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game this past Saturday.
Who are these bowls actually rewarding? Players like Colby Cameron, a senior who, while winning one of the more prestigious individual awards in college football, may never play another down of organized football? Or conferences like the ACC and SEC, who both sent teams with .500 records to bowl games.
Schools such as Georgia Tech and Mississippi have bigger fanbases. Bowls expect that they will travel better than smaller schools.
Though it seems pretty hypocritical that the Independence Bowl would turn around and take Ohio after Louisiana Tech was indecisive.
Ohio University, located in Athens, Ohio, is some 15 hours away from Shreveport, La. Are Bobcats fans really going to make the long trek to Shreveport to cheer on a team that lost its last four regular-season games?
Louisiana Tech isn’t the only example of a snub, either. Middle Tennessee State, the Sun Belt Conference’s second-place team, was passed over by bowls as well. Particularly interesting is the fact that Western Kentucky, whom the Blue Raiders finished ahead of in the Sun Belt and beat this season, was chosen to play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on December 26.
In the end, the unfairness of the bowl system was again highlighted by a preference toward the power conferences which bring in more money for the bowls.
Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin was blunt when speaking about the issue. "The best answer is we'll be in Conference USA and it won't happen anymore. The WAC was a dying conference. Had no power, no stroke, no anything. Here in the end it's shown they have nothing. They're dead. Next year, we win nine games and you don't have this problem,” said Franklin (via Yahoo!).
Try using that line to console the 31 seniors who will not be playing in a bowl game this season.