'Tis The Season With A Bowl Full Of Cheer: An Every Game Counts Exclusive
By Rich Rodriguez
Even if it wasn't Christmas-time, I would still be excited, because it's bowl season. Nothing during the football season - or the whole football year - has quite the same feeling as preparing for a bowl. It's not just a tribute to a successful season for your team, but it's an opportunity for your entire program to finish on a high.
There are lots of folks who like to debate whether there should be bowls or playoffs to determine our champions, but I don't get much into that arguing. At this time of year, it's great to be practicing and playing football, plus you get a trip to spend a few days in a vacation city and you get to play on national television against an outstanding opponent, which is a great showcase for any program. It's a reward for the players in every sense, and a chance for these teammates, some of them for the last time, to spend a week enjoying themselves with the guys who have been their allies in the trenches all season.
Of course, I loved last year's bowl trip, when we won the Sugar Bowl, but I also clearly remember the first bowl I went to, the 1981 Peach Bowl when I was a freshman at West Virginia. - I don't think I will ever forget it. The game was outstanding, because we beat Florida as a heavy underdog, but for this kid from Grant Town, W.Va., it was the first airplane ride I'd ever been on. Now that was neat!
It's a new experience for some of your younger players to travel and represent the team in that manner, and while they might not realize it now, those eight or nine extra bowl practices are a great opportunity for the young guys to improve and learn. Some coaches liken bowl practice to an extra set of spring drills, but it may be even more beneficial, when your team is in shape and the players are still familiar with all your concepts through daily repetition. And if you win the bowl game, seeing the faces of your seniors as they complete their careers on that high is something you never forget.
Something else I like about bowls, as a coach, is that it's a week to spend a little fun time with your family and let them enjoy being part of the football program. Sure, there are coaching duties and you are getting ready for an important game, but it's nice to have your kids around at meals and in the evenings. Since my two are getting older and busy with school and their other activities, it's nice to just have some family time with Mom and Dad. A bowl gives you a real chance to enjoy that.
At a place like West Virginia, the bowl trip is a great experience for so many of our fans, who travel everywhere we go. The weather is almost sure to be warmer than it is at home, and you can enjoy a little bit of fellowship with several thousand of your Mountaineer buddies. West Virginians love to go to bowls; they just flat-out love their football team. Merry Christmas and happy bowling!