By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Just like apple pie, the Fourth of July and steroid scandals, college football on New Year’s Day is about as American as it gets.
Unless, that is, if New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday.
Because, in that case, college football becomes as AWOL as it gets, instead.
This weekend, Jan. 1 features not a single college bowl game. There’s no Capital One, no Outback and no Gator. There’s no Rose or Fiesta. Heck, there’s not even a token TicketCity Bowl to appease the pigskin traditionalists among us.
Rather, all of those usual New Year’s Day bowl games have instead been relegated to Monday, Jan. 2. The territory of Jan. 1, meanwhile, has been completely claimed by the almighty NFL.
To which I say, “Bah, Humbug.”
College football belongs on New Year’s Day, and it’s disappointing that we’re not getting even a taste of it this Sunday.
Last weekend, as you might recall, Christmas fell on a Sunday, too. And out of respect for that holiday (I’m going to assume it wasn’t out of respect for the NBA),
the NFL swung the bulk of its schedule over to Saturday. It would have been nice to see the same thing happen this weekend, as Roger Goodell & Co. could have shown a lot of class and respect for the NCAA, which provides its talent, by acknowledging that New Year’s Day is meant for college football.
Even if Sundays are meant for the pros.
Now, this isn’t, of course, the first time that Jan. 1 has fallen on a Sunday. It’s happened eight times since 1960, and only on occasion in the past have college bowls taken place on Sunday, Jan. 1. None did in 2006, the most recent year that the New Year arrived on Sunday, so the NFL staking a New Year’s claim is nothing new.
But circumstances these days are quite different than they have been during the past.
For example, Jan. 1 also fell on a Sunday in 1995, 1989 and 1984 and in each of those instances – as well as preceding ones – the NFL had begun the playoffs by the time the calendar flipped over.
I can completely understand the NFL not wanting to tamper with its postseason slate simply because Sunday is New Year’s Day. But this Sunday merely marks Week 17 of the regular season, not Round 1 of the postseason.
To be fair, the NFL last year did tweak its schedule last year so that every Week 17 game will pit two divisional rivals against each other in an attempt to make these late-season games more meaningful. And it apparently has worked, as only three of the league’s 16 games this weekend – Seattle vs. Arizona, Washington vs. Philadelphia and, yes, Chicago vs. Minnesota (sorry, Bears fans) – have essentially no bearing on either the playoff picture or the 2012 NFL Draft.
That said, this weekend’s games are still regular-season ones, and I think the NFL could have adjusted if it wanted to do so. Apparently, it did not. But, still, even if the league didn’t want to clear the entire day on Sunday, it could have at least opened a window in the afternoon so college could play the Rose Bowl, or it could have drop Sunday’s nighttime pro game to give us a chance to watch the Fiesta Bowl.
After all, Sundays roll around every week, you know. But New Year’s? Well, it only happens once a year.
And when it does, I like to go bowling.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.