When college football has run out of money to grab

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Our biggest Beef ‘O’ Brady with the current college football bowl system?

This season, it looks as if someone from the NCAA went to Overstock.com and bought up all the naming rights nobody else wanted.

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So maybe the economy hasn’t fully bounced back to those glorious, disingenuous dot-com days where companies could sponsor a meaningless bowl game by swiping a credit card that they never intended to pay off.

But if this is supposed to be some sudden embarrassment of riches among the Big Lots of the world, maybe we should feel fortunate that UCLA and USC had a) not enough victories or b) too many violations to completely avoid the further embarrassment of having to ask their fan base to cough up full-price plane fair and game tickets for a tacky-named exhibition.

Go down the list. It’s like a who’s who of never was.

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A Wilmington, Ohio-based trucking firm. A discount paint-and-body repair shop. A Japanese automaker with a name we still can’t pronounce, and whose top-selling model ranks No. 14 on the American best-seller list.

A multi-vitamin retailer whose customer service complaint hotline expands from 10 p.m. to midnight on Mondays and Tuesdays. An online ticket broker that has neither “Stub” nor “Hub” in its name. A website where you go, daddy, to buy a website domain name.

Two pizza delivery joints. A credit union that’s supposed to be looking out for your investment but is instead paying out $750,000 a team in appearance fees. And a U.S. defense contractor.

Who’s got a spare Poulan WeedEater to come in and clear some of this dry brush?

There are 34 minor-league, preliminary bouts over the next four-plus weeks before the Oregon-Auburn heavyweight battle to determine this season’s pretend national champion. There are just about 34 minor-league names to match.

Either the giants of the Forbes 500 weren’t bold enough to spend a little walking-around money and slap their logo on the midfield stripe, or this is an ingenious way for major corporate America to protest the whole charade.

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There will be no drove to be humanely put down after the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl wraps up this Saturday in Boise, Idaho. This company that “replaces in-cab paperwork for the transportation industry from your smart phone” might want to add an app to monitor if anyone’s really paying attention in Spudville, USA.

Some think we’ve reached a new era with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. But it’s really an opportunity for good ol’ 7-5 Syracuse, with stunning victories over Colgate, Akron and Maine but unable to upend UConn for the Big East title, to boldly offer travel packages to anyone willing to take a same-day, 250-mile round-trip charter from the campus to New York City. It comes with ground transportation, a pre-game reception and a “trip souvenir.” But no game ticket. All for just $720 a person.

That Emerald Nut-Job Bowl that the Trojans ended up winning last year in San Francisco? Now it’s the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. A noble cause, but really, is the best way to tackle this kind of global problem with gobs of Mac-and-Cheez Whiz?

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, by the way, is an Irish pub chain. The closest one to us is in Phoenix. That’s not far enough.

These bowls that do get (but don’t necessarily need) NCAA certification have the option of going without a shady business partner. But then they have to figure out a way to pay the teams off for participating. Most guarantee at least the three-quarters-of-a-mil payout.

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Yet, something called the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 8, can only afford $300,000 apiece for Pittsburgh and Kentucky. The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl really got carried away and has committed $325,000 each to Troy and Ohio.

Why even bother?

The salad days of college football’s Salad Bowl – it was Phoenix’s precursor to the Fiesta Bowl, sponsored by Tostidos – make us wonder even more: How low will they go with lame names?

Tom Hagel, a senior director of marketing at ESPN, which is the network televising 34 of the 35 games this bowl season, told Bloomberg News recently that he has never had a title sponsor name rejected by the NCAA’s Football Issues Committee, which grants bowl licenses.

“We have our own filter,” Hagel said. “When you’re in the bowl business, it’s almost like you’re buying a house in a neighborhood. You don’t want a real bad house in the neighborhood.”

Unless it’s been sitting vacant for a few years and the neighborhood’s value is plummeting.

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In that case, the ExtenZe Bowl has just been added to someone’s short list.

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