I called my father – the long-suffering Vanderbilt alum – earlier today to celebrate the fact that the Commodores were in their third straight post-season bowl game. I believe I noted that the “end of the world was near.”
For a family that grew up watching Vanderbilt football, having a successful football program does bring worries about the balance of nature being seriously out-of-whack. My father always referenced the 1945 Alabama vs. Vanderbilt game as typical of what a school that – how shall we say this delicately – cared somewhat more about academics than the rest of its Southeastern Conference brethren had to deal with on a season-by-season basis. According to family lore, Alabama had stockpiled players in ROTC in 1945 as the war effort was winding down. The result: a 71-0 shellacking. To this day, I have never heard my father root for the Crimson Tide. (For those who join us in our feelings toward Alabama football, I recommend Brian Phillips’ hilarious take on Nick Saban’s Nightmare following the Tide’s “upset” loss to Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl.)
When I called my father, we noted that Vanderbilt was playing in one of those bowl games named for some corporate entity: the BBVA Compass Bowl, to be exact. Daddy had just sent an email, with the cartoon at the top of this post and an accompanying article by David Horsey from the LA Times, attached. The entire article will bring a laugh, but I’ll just give you a taste here:
The proliferation of college football bowls with goofy corporate names must be making at least a few players and coaches cringe. Doesn’t it feel like a dubious honor to be the winner of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? That is the distinction Kansas State can claim, having beaten Michigan 31 to 14. Does the victory come with a side of fries?…
Being a Rose Bowl champion or an Orange Bowl victor carries a tradition that means something special. Winning a bowl named after yet another restaurant chain — Outback Steakhouse, for instance — seems just a bit cheap.
Is it better to play in the bowls named for companies that deal in sports equipment or sports medicine, like Russell Athletic or Advocare? How about a bank? There’s one sponsored by Capital One and another called BBVA Compass named after a Spanish-owned banking firm. That bowl, at least, has gone up a notch in naming rights having formerly been the PapaJohns.com Bowl. Sadly, there is still a bowl in Mobile, Ala., named for a website: the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Great. My father’s alma mater finally starts to play good football, and they miss getting to play in a bowl named for a pizza chain. A pizza chain, no less, that has been best known recently for the CEO’s comments about providing health care to his employees by raising the price of a pie on his customers. A CEO, it should be noted, who is very well compensated.
Such is the way of corporate bowl sponsorship. That bank is sounding better by the minute. In any event, Vanderbilt is off to a good first quarter in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Go Commodores!
More to come…