McCaffrey’s Snub Shows Change but Sun Bowl Keeps Shining
Christian McCaffrey didn't come to El Paso, but his Stanford teammates made it clear they didn't need No. 5 in uniform to win a thrilling Hyundai Sun Bowl.
And by stating that he'd sit out the Cardinal's last game, McCaffrey made it clear he didn't need the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
With the "No Mas" announcements from McCaffrey and former LSU star Leonard Fournette, who is sitting out the Citrus Bowl, we are finding out just how much the college game's post-season tradition has already melted away.
Blame college football's global warming on its three-year-old playoff. Or applaud it. Just don't deny it's happening.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban sees it.
The end result: McCaffrey's "difficult decision" to skip the Sun Bowl after three weeks of post-season practice with no games to grind him down, 11 days before the bowl.
"Can you blame McCaffrey?"
It was the question on the mind of every sports pundit in America. But it's an incomplete statement. The rest is implied, but here you go:
"Can you blame McCaffrey? The Hyundai Sun Bowl ain't exactly the college football playoff."
No, it isn't. And here -- right here -- is the instant relegation of everything that isn't a playoff, every conference and every team that will never reach that playoff, so why do any of them bother?
The truth is that the genie is out of the bottle, but you know the old adage about being careful what you wish for.
The media heaped scorn on college football for giving us the Bowl Championship Series, viewing every bowl executive like disgraced former Fiesta Bowl chief John Junker -- a wheeler-dealer with a fat wallet, ready even to bribe politicians to improve his game's status.
Fans clamored for an NFL-style playoff not caring that the NFL's league size and parity is perfect for the format, but would leave behind whole swaths of a 124-team division of college football.
Well, the playoffs are here and, just as I wrote almost five years ago, bowl games -- even whole college programs, like UTEP's -- are being labeled more and more as "flyover country", that derisive term for everything between New York and LA.
Doubt it's true? Exhibit A: Christian McCaffrey, who didn't even bother to fly.
Both McCaffrey and Fournette played hurt throughout their final college seasons in one of the world's toughest sports. Both have their coaches' and teammates' blessings to sit. Both have checks with lots of zeroes waiting for them in the NFL.
But their sitting out points to what many call the "lie" of collegiate sports, and of bowl games in particular.
Except that it's not a lie. Just the opposite, actually.
Over 80 years ago, it was the honest desire of a group of El Pasoans to create something that would benefit El Paso. That continues now with any number of events organized by the Sun Bowl Association from parades to basketball, golf and soccer tournaments and more.
Just because the Sun Bowl game doesn't come with a seven figure check and a national championship trophy, does that make it a lie? No, not at all.
But because that trophy now exists, the Sun Bowl is worth less. Problem is, the rest of the sports world keeps combining the last two words of the prior sentence.
El Paso should fight for its place in this space. The Sun Bowl has more history and claim to it than most of the other bowls around.
Frankly, answering what the college football playoff has wrought is an impossible task. That doesn't mean the Hyundai Sun Bowl has nothing to offer. One of the better attendance marks among non-New Year's Six bowls says so.
Any answer should not involve a bigger playoff, either. That won't even solve problems within the playoffs about who got left out. NCAA basketball tournament brackets are up to 68 teams and every year multiple schools complain about not being included.
There will be more Christian McCaffreys. More Leonard Fournettes. More clamor for more at the expense of whatever isn't more.
Meanwhile, the Sun Bowl Association will keep plugging away despite setbacks, misperceptions and lies about the city and wisecracks from media blowhards.
More probably, it does this because of those things.
Can you blame them?