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Opinion

Bowl names are an embarrassment to college football

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?

Then there’s Detroit’s Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, where I imagine there must have been a few lukewarm pepperoni pies delivered to the locker rooms at halftime. St. Petersburg, Fla., hosted the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, named for a chain of sports bars and restaurants in the South. Beefy as that bowl name may be, it doesn’t have the heft of the good old Cotton Bowl.

Atlanta’s claim to a slice of the fast food football sponsorships is the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Same-sex married couples may want to skip this one.

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The bowls are not all about high-calorie cuisine. My own alma mater, the University of Washington, sent its football team to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. It’s a good thing to battle hunger, of course, but the corporate name locked in my mind the image of the bright-orange Kraft macaroni and cheese that I used to feed my kids. Strangely, this also-ran bowl was played in a baseball stadium with both teams awkwardly arrayed on the same side of the field. Happily, the Huskies won, but the venue made me wonder if having 35 bowl games has cheapened the value of these post-season games.

Perhaps not, since the players seem proud enough to get the extra games. But the names? 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 BVA 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.

As the commercialization of college football continues, future naming possibilities abound. How about the Hooters Bowl? Or the Kotex Maxi Pads Bowl? Or, to really bring in the big sponsorship dollars, the Los Zetas Drug Cartel Bowl? How embarrassing or preposterous will a naming deal have to get before bowl committees are called for a penalty against good taste and the dignity of the game?

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