Harbaugh, Fisher agree: No bowl is meaningless
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. – The proliferation of bowl games and the addition of a four-team playoff has led many to look at most bowl games as meaningless.
Some bowls have sub-.500 teams, which erases the concept that a postseason game is a reward for a good season. Many of the lower-tier games have had lots of empty seats with tickets practically being given away on the secondary market. And, hey, if you're not in the elite four-team College Football Playoff, your bowl is devalued and just not that important, right?
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, whose teams will face each other Friday night in the Orange Bowl, a New Year’s Six Bowl, clearly do not buy into the meaningless-bowl storyline.
“If you're keeping score, it's not meaningless,” Fisher said Thursday in the final pre-game news conference. “You play your tails off. It's competition. That's your job. That's what you're supposed to do. I don't get the meaningless part. There's no such thing as meaningless bowl games. I think that's a product of our playoff, and I said that was going to happen, and I don't mean this to y'all. I think that's what the media has created a little bit. You guys act like it's playoff or nothing.
“You win 10, 11 games, beat your rivals, go play an Orange Bowl or a Sugar Bowl or a Cotton Bowl or whatever bowl, the bowl in Orlando, the Russell Athletic Bowl and all, those games all matter. What is wrong with that? One of the great things about college football is not everyone ends on a loss.
“The bowl games is one of those things that we had better be really, really careful -- with all this playoff stuff -- that we don't push away because we're all caught up in a championship.
“All we talk about is, Tuesday, who's in the playoff rankings? Who cares? Go play. Be the best you can be. … These games all mean something and I think they mean more than ever right now, and I hope we don't push that away because we're going to destroy the great traditions of college football if we do.”
Harbaugh was asked Thursday if the Wolverines are playing for Big Ten pride in the Orange Bowl and if bowl games have been devalued.
“Winning the Orange Bowl championship is our goal now,” Harbaugh said. “That's a lot, in our minds. We want to win the most awards. We want to get the best grades. We want to excel at sports, and we have that opportunity to win a trophy.
“To win a championship, to win a trophy, to want to go out and give it your very best. You want to give it your all. You want to have dignity and pride, and you'll have that in doing your very best. But you also want to win. That's a lot, isn't it? Don't you think? I think it is.”
Fisher respects Harbaugh
Earlier this year, ESPN asked a number of football coaches for a one-word description of Harbaugh. Fisher responded, after a lengthy pause: “Interesting.”
Fisher said Thursday he likes Harbaugh.
“I have no problem -- I think he's great,” Fisher said. “He speaks what's on his mind. He does what he thinks is best for Michigan and that's what all of us do. We have to do what's best for Florida State or Florida or Georgia or whoever we coach.
“And I think Jim does that, and I think he promotes his program and does a great job in that regard. He's obviously very successful. He's obviously very intelligent or he wouldn't have the success in the things he's doing. I enjoy being around him. I like him.”
Fisher said he has encountered Harbaugh at times in recruiting.
“We ran into each other this year,” Fisher said. “But Michigan is a brand name now, not just him. Michigan is a school that people want to go to. Jim does a great job. He's a relentless guy. We don't bump into each other a lot in recruiting, but we do a couple times.”
Orange you special?
Harbaugh fielded one goofy question about his thoughts on oranges – it is the Orange Bowl, after all – and had some fun with it.
He was asked how many he could eat in five minutes, does he like the taste of orange juice after brushing his teeth and does he like mandarin oranges in salad.
“Yeah, I mean, who doesn't?” Harbaugh said, smiling. “I can't find anybody that doesn't like mandarin oranges. I find oranges to be very refreshing, and same with orange juice. Great thirst quencher, and last time I ate an orange was yesterday. I had one the day before that. I have not tried to see how many oranges I could eat in -- what did you say, five minutes?”
And what about oranges after teeth brushing?
“Yeah, if that's all you've got there, why not?” Harbaugh said. “It's not the go-to post tooth-brushing rinse, but ...”
Fun? What fun?
During a team Orange Bowl dinner in South Beach Wednesday night, offensive line teammates Erik Magnuson and Kyle Kalis, who are best friends, and center Mason Cole were soaking in their final few days of being teammates.
They were asked if they were having fun on this trip, and they had good-natured responses.
Kalis: “Zero. Football.”
Not even …?
“No,” Magnuson said before the question has been asked. “Do you know who we play for?”
Kalis: “I’m asleep by 11 every night. Bed check by 11:30.”
Magnuson: “There’s no going out. No partying.”