The television ratings for the college football bowl games played so far are down, and that’s no surprise. While analysts are convinced it’s because most of the games are on ESPN instead of the major broadcast networks now, that’s only s small part of the story.

For one thing, ESPN reaches nearly 100 million households in the U.S., which leaves only about 14 million households without a way to watch ESPN.

But there is another, more important reason for the downshift in the ratings: Nobody cares.

pg2_ncaafan_sy_576That is a brand issue because with the considerable number of bowls – with names like the Outback Bowl, the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl, the Beef O’ Brady Bowl, the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, etc. – they have lost their meaning. We, as an audience, have no idea to their significance. The only one with any meaning is the BSC championship game, which won’t be played until next week.

There are now 35 bowl games, matchups between a whopping 70 teams, with absolutely nothing at stake. Oh, there’s money involved and the reputations of the coaches, but little for the viewer. The only ones who care are the alumni of the individual teams and those involved directly with the bowl itself.

The bowl season has reached a ridiculous, completely meaningless stage. It used to be, of course, that there were only a few bowls, all broadcast on New Year’s Day, and we understood what they meant: The Rose Bowl was the Pac-10 champion vs. the Big 10 champion, and so on.

Now, it’s just a land grab for money and don’t be surprised if more meaningless bowls are added in the future.

Of course, the way out of this quagmire is to establish a playoff system because then the games would have meaning for the viewer. That’s where the power of any brand always comes from: It’s meaning. Without it, audiences have no reason to care.