Bowl philosophy: Fun vs. winning

January, 2, 2009
1/02/09
5:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's unfortunate, it really is, but let's face it -- the pressure is on to win bowl games, not just show up and, well, have fun.

Some coaches wrestle with which approach is better -- treat the bowl as a reward, and take it easy on the players, or treat it like a November game that means something.

It's OK to simply be happy to be there if you're Vanderbilt, which was in its first game since 1982, but not if you're Georgia Tech, which was in its 12th straight bowl game. The ACC had two very different results in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the FedEx Orange Bowl, and it's no coincidence the head coaches had polar philosophies when it came to their preparation for it.

Frank Beamer's approach last year didn't work. Paul Johnson's approach didn't work this year.
Lessening the load at bowl practices and treating the game as a reward rather than a must win has proven at times to be an ineffective approach, especially when teams like LSU are diligently practicing the triple option without a football to help simulate the speed.

Johnson, meanwhile, shortened practice from two hours to about 90 minutes, and instead of taking advantage of the unlimited practice time, they took two weeks off for exams and practiced just nine times. Players swapped jerseys and joked around. And they were embarrassed by a team they could have hung with and probably beaten had they come prepared to play. This is not to say that Georgia Tech didn't work hard during its practices, just that LSU probably worked harder.

Beamer changed his approach this season, and started working harder earlier. The players followed, and in the end, they had more fun winning than Georgia Tech had preparing. Odds are next season Johnson has a different approach.

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