34 College Bowl Games Later, it’s Time for the Championship!

Almost a month after this season’s first bowl game kickoff in New Mexico, it’s finally time for the highly anticipated Notre Dame – Alabama championship matchup. Unlike most other NCAA-sponsored sports, college football’s postseason does not utilize a traditional tournament to establish a champion but, rather, a bowl game system. What’s interesting is that the number of bowl games has grown substantially since the first 1902 Rose Bowl — most notably over the past few decades. ESPN recently featured an interesting infographic that effectively illustrates this trend.

The graphic draws attention to some of the most noteworthy contests of the 112-year college bowl game existence — such as 1941’s Rose Bowl in North Carolina, 1951’s first nationally televised game and 1998’s first BCS Championship. But the most intriguing data the graphic displays is, arguably, the dramatic growth of number of games over the past 25 years. What is the explanation for this surge from 20 bowls in 1997 to this year’s 35? ESPN speculates that sponsorship interest, growth of cable TV and college football popularity each play a part.

Whatever the combination of factors may be, it made us wonder whether the capacity of games has been reached or if we should expect the trend to continue.

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