Above: potential future two-sport athlete Tyler Tettleton.
Bowling isn't a sport because you have to rent the shoes. — George Carlin
The NCAA began sanctioning women's bowling as one of their sports back in 2003. I might be callously oversimplifying but this happened right around Title IX started forcing some schools to cut men's programs and focus on women's athletics, so this could've been a helpful avenue for some schools to get another women's program under the belt. But everybody loves bowling and yet there's just 36 Division I programs that sponsor it.
Two months ago the Mid-American Conference hosted the NCAA Bowling Championship in Cleveland. For this, the MAC covered it on their site and hosted coach interviews and all that good stuff. And yet, no MAC sports sponsor bowling, so actual fans of the conference were left out in the cold on who to root for. Perhaps Valparaiso, the only participant that was even in the same state as a MAC school.
There sure seems like an opportunity here. Bowling's never going to be much of a spectator sport but can be good, clean (if slightly greasy) competition. And it's cheap, too. We've talked about starting MAC hockey in the past, which would be a major effort and possibly something still worth exploring. But the cost to start a five-person bowling team over a 20-man hockey team seems a little more sensible.
Would we cover MAC bowling? Admittedly not much — although if we were the inspiration for the inception of the league then we'd probably feel obliged to at least post the scores. But adding a minor sport like bowling might be healthier than focusing more on these grand sports like football where a student's entire life is consumed by practices and playbooks. Many adults love playing a sport on the side, after work, on the weekends. What a great opportunity to practice and preach competition in moderation. And the sport isn't niche at all. Everybody bowls. I bowled in high school — not at a varsity level, but in one of those Saturday morning high school leagues. This last part is one of the reasons my dream of an NCAA curling league will die every time. Not enough people in the States play it until they become an adult.
But like all great blog-born ideas, I'm probably missing some vital component that would make this not work at all. There's the question of bowling scholarships, which suddenly seems a little ridiculous but bear in mind they're not full rides to college. And who knows, maybe they'd still have to rent the shoes.