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NEW ORLEANS — The
formation of the Bowl Championship Series is credited with widening the
gap that exists in Division I-A football. That gap is evident by the
results on the field, and even more so by cash in the coffers.
The national media has
further emphasized that division by its use of labels, with the most
prevalent terminology being recycled from college hoops. Now BCS and
non-BCS football programs are commonly distinguished by their ‘major’
and ‘mid-major’ labels.
It’s the latter that
generates heartburn for many fans of non-BCS schools. But for some
Conference USA coaches, the label isn’t a source of much frustration.
“I think in a way it’s
offensive, but I understand it,” Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said.
“And I probably agree with it.
“This league’s reputation
and how it’s viewed upon is gonna be based on how you do in your
non-conference schedule. I’m so used to it, it doesn’t bother me
anymore. Just don’t call us ‘Giant Killers’. That’s like you don’t have
any business out there with them.”
Memphis coach Tommy West
also isn’t phased by the term. Instead, he’s focused on increasing the
frequency with which C-USA members beat BCS opponents.
“Doesn’t bother me in the
least,” West said. “What bothers me is if we’re not beating some of
those BCS guys. I don’t know why that would bother somebody – that’s
just a term.
“This league is not going
to be where we can compete consistently with the top three in (BCS
conferences). But those bottom three? We’ve got to be where we can
consistently beat those guys. That’s more important to us than what
somebody wants to call us. They can call us whatever they want to call
has received a lot of focus due to the increased opportunities generated
by 12-game schedules. At East Carolina, AD Terry Holland has parlayed
that into long-term agreements with several attractive regional
opponents, including North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina,
Virginia Tech, and West Virginia.
Though West likes the
presence of BCS opponents on the schedule, he doesn’t exactly favor
Memphis pursuing ECU’s scheduling philosophy.
“That’s crazy,” West said
with a chuckle. “Really, you want to have a team and then you go and
play those guys out of the league?
“I don’t agree with that,
but that ain’t my problem. That’s Skip’s problem. I’ve got enough
problems. I’m not trying to solve his. He can’t say that, but I can.”
Unlike East Carolina,
Southern Miss has struggled to piece together a viable non-conference
schedule. As a result, Bower is open to adding conference games to the
current eight-game gauntlet.
“I’m not so sure that I
wouldn’t like to play another conference game,” Bower said. “Instead of
playing eight, play nine just for ease of scheduling.
“We have a difficult time
with scheduling. It would make it easier to do that. We can’t get a
sniff out of (Mississippi State or Ole Miss).”
Among the rule changes for
the upcoming season is the movement of kickoffs from the 35 to the
30-yard line. C-USA coaches believe that will mean an increase in
returns and an overall shift in kickoff and game strategy.
“We’re bringing every one
of them out,” West said. “I don’t care how deep they go, because the
coverage can’t get there. There are always holes in kickoff coverage.
“I really think it’s going
to have a huge impact to where I see offenses starting at the 35-40 yard
line. That’s points right there. We’re going to try to be really
creative with sky kicks and squib kicks.”
Bower said the new rule
might not alter his approach to kickoffs, but it could mean a change in
“I think it’s going to
change your decision at the coin toss,” Bower said. “You win the coin
toss now, and I think you’re going to see teams receive the ball.
“Now you’ve got a chance
to establish field position on that first possession even if you don’t
score. You get a first down or two and then punt the ball, you’ve got a
chance to establish good field position.”