December 8, 2013
The Hilltoppers have been snubbed again.
For the second time in three seasons, WKU will not play in a bowl despite winning six or more games, the minimum requirement for postseason eligibility.
It is disappointing news for a team that finished the regular season 8-4 and ended the year on a four-game winning streak. How do you tell a team with eight wins they did not do enough to earn one more game? I do not envy Todd Stewart, coach Petrino, or anyone else who had to break the bad news.
Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, they fell victim to the numbers game. Too many teams from BCS conferences were bowl eligible. In 2012, all WKU had to do was beat out Middle Tennessee, even though the Blue Raiders had a better record than the Tops and beat Western head to head. Sound familiar? In 2013, the Hilltoppers were competing with Pitt, Boston College, Syracuse, Oregon State, and a few BCS schools for a bowl spot. That is a battle Western is not going to win. On the football field, maybe. In a board room, not so much. I remind you, your resume does not matter nearly as much as conference affiliation, the school name across the jersey, and ticket sales.
Speaking of conference affiliation, WKU's bowl snub is a perfect example of why the school is leaving the Sun Belt for Conference USA next year. The Sun Belt had two bowl tie-ins this season. They went to Louisiana-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl) and Arkansas State (GoDaddy.com Bowl). The conference had zero secondary tie-ins, meaning if another conference could not fill all of its bowl spots, a Sun Belt team could take that spot instead. Compare that to C-USA, which has six teams going to a bowl this season and will have nine bowl affiliations, with a minimum of five berths annually, starting in 2014. You can thank retired Sun Belt commissioner, Wright Waters, for that mark of brilliance.
In theory, going to a bowl game in the future should be easier, assuming the Hilltoppers do their part on the field. However Hilltopper fans...
Don't think you are getting off scot free. There is a reason why the GoDaddy.com Bowl selected Arkansas State over Western. 14,417. That was the attendance for the Arkansas State game, easily the worst of the season in what was the most important game of the season. And that number includes a solid contingent of Red Wolves fans who made the trip from Jonesboro. ASU fans have also represented themselves well in two previous trips to the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
I don't care that it was cold. I don't care that it was Thanksgiving weekend. And I don't care that the Iron Bowl was on at the same time. If you live near Bowling Green, and you are among those complaining about WKU getting snubbed and you did not attend any games this year, zip it. Who is to say this cannot happen again? Florida Atlantic is in C-USA now and won six games this year, but will not play in a bowl. My advice: attend games in September/October AND November/December. And if/when the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible next time around, pre-order tickets. Like it or not, that is what bowls look at.
At the end of the day, it is a disappointing end to an otherwise solid season for the Hilltoppers. The team will lose several starters including Antonio Andrews, Andrew Jackson, and Xavius Boyd. However, several players return next year like Brandon Doughty, Leon Allen, and Jonathan Dowling. The biggest question entering the offseason: will Bobby Petrino be around for 2014? We will probably know that answer within the next month.