By my count, and I’mnot that great of a counter, I’m covering my 11th college football bowl game this week as Kansas State prepares to play Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night.
As you know if you read what I write or listen to what I say, I’m not a fan of the college football postseason. There are too many teams in too many meaningless games.
But I gotta tell you, bowl games and the time leading up to them are fun. Believe it or not, the people in charge of these games actually seem to care about the media.
Here in Arizona, we’ve been put up at the Marriott Camelback Inn in Scottsdale. It’s a swank place and my room is one of the best I’ve stayed in. I HAVE A MICROWAVE!!
There’s a media party tonight for, well, the media. We’re not used to having parties thrown for us, folks. Most of the parties we attend are those we crash or those where a newsworthy event is happening.
Respect is a foreign word to many of us, so that nice breakfast croissant I had this morning in the media work room is much appreciated.
There’s even a media hospitality room here. Who has ever been hospitable to the media?
This is a great set-up, but it’s not even as nice as our digs at the Cotton Bowl last year, when Kansas State lost to Arkansas. I think. I don’t really remember much about the game, but I do remember the ping-pong table they had set up for those of us in the media. And the card tables, which we used to play spades.
I could get used to this kind of life.
Yesterday, there was a media golf outing at the Camelback Golf Club just a few miles from the hotel. The folks from the Fiesta Bowl reserved a block of time on one of the region’s nicest courses so that those of us in the media could enjoy ourselves.
Seriously? Most of the time, those we cover make it as hard on us to do so as possible.
Before bowl games, players and coaches are brought to us for interviews. On our turf.
Finding a Kansas State player or coach to interview during the regular season is like finding a diamond in a ruby slipper.
So while there’s plenty of work to do in the days leading up to a bowl game, the environment in which we’re doing the work is laid back and enjoyable. The folks with the Fiesta Bowl, and the other bowls I’ve covered through the years, do a great job in making our jobs easier.
For the record, these are the bowls I’ve covered:
1995 Holiday Bowl, San Diego – Kansas State 54, Colorado State 21. We were in San Diego for this one. That about says it all.
1997 Cotton Bowl, Dallas – BYU 19, Kansas State 15. My first Cotton Bowl experience was a fantastic one. Bowl officials treated the media to a Sinbad comedy concert. I probably haven’t laughed as hard since.
1997 Fiesta Bowl, Tempe, Ariz. – Kansas State 35, Syracuse 18. Donovan McNabb was Syracuse’s high-profile quarterback. He was completely overshadowed by K-State’s Michael Bishop, who passed for 317 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 77 yards and another TD. I’ve never seen a better bowl performance.
1998 Alamo Bowl, San Antonio – Purdue 37, Kansas State 34. Having lost the Big 12 championship game in heartbreaking fashion just a few weeks earlier, K-State was in no mood to be playing this one, although the Cats rallied late to make it close. Boilermakers quarterback Drew Brees passed for 230 yards and three TDs.
1999 Holiday Bowl, San Diego – Kansas State 24, Washington 20. The big news here is what I did after the game. My son was with me and we drove up the coast to Los Angeles, where we saw the Eagles perform a millennium concert with Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. Tickets were $500 apiece, but that’s one case in which money meant nothing.
2001 Cotton Bowl, Dallas – Kansas State 35, Tennessee 21 – It was fun to see Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer dancing with his wife (gee, I hope it was his wife) during one of the pre-game parties. Running back Josh Scobey and quarterback Jonathan Beasley were the stars for K-State.
2002 Holiday Bowl, San Diego – Kansas State 34, Arizona State 27. Back to San Diego is good work if you can get it. So is watching Darren Sproles, who rushed for 118 yards for the Cats.
2004 Fiesta Bowl, Tempe, Ariz. – Ohio State 35, Kansas State 28. This was the worst bowl experience I’ve had, and not because of the game. Two days before the game, K-State quarterback Ell Roberson was accused of sexual assault at the team’s hotel. Ultimately, Bill Snyder decided to start Roberson against the Buckeyes but he struggled early. Trying to chase the Roberson story while also preparing for a bowl game was not anybody’s idea of a good time.
2006 Texas Bowl, Houston – Rutgers 37, Kansas State 10 – The only bowl experience during Ron Prince’s three seasons as a coach was a bad one. K-State was routed as Ray Rice ran for 170 yards and one touchdown for the Scarlet Knights.
2008 Orange Bowl, Miami – Kansas 24, Virginia Tech 21. It was a nice change of pace to see Kansas in a BCS bowl and the Jayhawks, coming off a one-loss regular season, delivered. Who knew that by the next season, Mark Mangino’s tenure with the Jayhawks would begin to unravel?
2012 Cotton Bowl, Dallas – Arkansas 29, Kansas State 16. A disappointing game for the Wildcats, who never got into sync offensively.