Oklahoma State is going to the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day. Sounds good, right?
No, not “the” Cotton Bowl. That bowl game, played in Cowboys Stadium, invited BCS-snubbed Oklahoma to play Texas A&M on Jan. 4.
OSU will play at the Cotton Bowl venue, host of the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Confused? Surprised? You aren’t alone.
The Cowboys finished tied for third in the Big 12 and fell to the conference’s eighth bowl selection. Its opponent, Purdue, is a 6-6 team from the underachieving Big 10 that just fired its coach. Disgruntled at the bowl selection would be quite the understatement.
OSU deserved a better bowl, not a postseason gimmick for bad teams.
So how did this happen? The Alamo Bowl was penciled in as the initial destination for OSU, but the bowl rightfully decided to grab Texas after Northern Illinois bumped Oklahoma out of the BCS.
The next two bowl games, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and Holiday Bowl, could and should have taken OSU, but both decided to keep previous agreements with TCU and Baylor. West Virginia was always going to the Pinstripe Bowl for geographic reasons, and the Meineke Bowl in Houston was never going to take OSU because the venue is also hosting the school for the 2013 season opener.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl, renamed from the Ticket City Bowl, played at half-capacity since its inaugural game in 2011. It is shown on ESPNU, a channel not even on basic cable in Oklahoma, and is played at the same time as three other notable and more prestigious New Year’s Day bowls. There will be no exposure for OSU whatsoever.
If OSU plays to its potential, it should rout Purdue by 40-plus points. Fans have seen that before; it was called Savannah State.
If the players and coaches feel slighted by playing in a less-deserving bowl and don’t care about the game, OSU will win in ugly fashion or suffer a bad loss. Fans saw that lack of focus at Baylor last weekend.
The OSU athletic department is at fault for not fostering relationships enough with the Buffalo Wild Wings and Holiday Bowl to have a fall back option when Oklahoma reset the bowl order, but it should have responded by making a strong statement and not accepting the Heart of Dallas Bowl invitation.
The benefits of bowl games (money, extra practice time, exposure, etc.) are minimal. If the players can’t get excited about the game, just like against Baylor after losing to Oklahoma, what good does extra practice do if they are just going through the motions? The coaching staff will not be showing off the Heart of Dallas bowl trophy to recruits, but other Big 12 coaches will be telling recruits how OSU couldn’t even beat a slow, mediocre Big 10 team if the Cowboys lose.
OSU stands to lose money with travel costs and having to eat the price of all unsold tickets the bowl allocates. At $75 a ticket with $20 parking, don’t expect to see too many OSU fans buy through the athletic department to see a coach-less Purdue team play in front of a half-empty stadium at the crack of dawn on New Year’s Day.
The Big 12 takes each team’s bowl payouts, puts the revenue together and pays each member institution equally. Although the Heart of Dallas Bowl pays only $1.1 million, the lowest payout of all Big 12 bowl games, the conference would have lost the $1.4 million payout of Iowa State’s Liberty Bowl appearance if OSU declined a bowl bid (the Cyclones would have went to the Heart of Dallas Bowl instead).
OSU would save travel costs and cause the other Big 12 schools to loose additional revenue. Taking potential money away from the conference would put pressure on something happening to prevent a third-place conference team falling to the worst bowl tie-in moving forward.
But instead OSU is playing in a game where no good can come out of any result, and the team and its fans are feeling less Heart of Dallas and more heartbroken.