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Gold Nuggets
Monday, June 20, 2007
By Adam Gold
Adam Gold is program director of the Triangle's "850 the Buzz" and host of "The G-spot with Adam Gold" on weekdays from 3-7 p.m.


When 'Plus One' might mean 'Minus Two'

Big Ten, Pac-10 view a potential new path to the title through Rose-colored glasses

By Adam Gold
All rights reserved.

Last year, Florida blew out Ohio State in the BCS championship game to win the school’s first national title since Steve Spurrier patrolled the sidelines in the late 1990's.

We all remember the game. Ohio State’s Ted Ginn returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, got hurt in the process of celebrating the feat, and the Buckeyes were trounced from that moment on.

The Gators were too fast, too skilled, and too good for Ohio State, which virtually everyone had thought was heads and shoulders better than the rest of the teams in the nation.

Shows you what we all knew.

But, if you recall the way the end of the season unfolded, Florida was lucky just to have a chance to play OSU.

Heading into the season’s final weekend, the Gators were 4th in the BCS standings and appeared headed for the Sugar Bowl. They were 4th in both opinion polls and 4th in the computer rankings, and one of the teams in front of them, Michigan, was two weeks removed from their final game of the season – a three-point loss to Ohio State.

I mean, if Florida wasn’t in front of the Wolverines already, what makes anyone think that the Gators could vault Big Blue now. It’s not like Lloyd Carr’s team was getting any worse, right?

But, No. 2 Southern Cal was beaten by UCLA, and the voters were so impressed by Florida’s win over Arkansas in the SEC title game that they finally decided that UF was better than UM (although it could have been alphabetical) and Urban Meyer and company were headed to the championship game.

Still, the debate raged at the SEC meetings at some swanky Florida resort as U of F president Bernie Machen tried to sell his league on the merits of a playoff. The BCS nearly left out the Gators, just as they did unbeaten Auburn a few years ago, and in the football mad Southeastern Conference there’s no such thing as “all things being equal.” When it comes to pigskin-related matters, the SEC is more “equal” than the other conferences and it’s just flat-out wrong when that league draws the short straw, like when Auburn was edged out of the title game by two other unbeaten teams USC and Oklahoma.

It didn’t take very long, however, for the league’s presidents to come to the realization that a playoff system was extremely difficult to pull off for a variety of reasons, many of which we’ve already talked about in this space. Things like excessive travel, lack of inclusion, and extending the season are going to be issues in conjunction with a playoff for college football.

There’s always been one thing that has been a very real option from the beginning within the BCS system, but it has yet to be considered: a “plus one” scenario. In other words, creating a four-team playoff within the current structure.

Here’s how it works.

There have been several seasons in which there were three teams fighting over two spots in the national championship game. In 2004, Auburn, Southern California and Oklahoma all finished the year at 12-0, but someone was going to be disappointed, and Auburn was that team. The same could be said for the previous season as USC, Oklahoma and LSU all tried to claim that they belonged in the championship game, but since all had one loss, someone had to get bounced. That ended up being the Trojans.

There have even been seasons when you could make a case for four different teams. But, never, under any circumstances, could you make a valid argument for more than four teams to have some claim on a spot in the title game.


Within the final BCS standings, you simply take the top four teams and pair them off using two of the BCS games (let’s say, Orange and Sugar), 1 vs. 4, and 2 vs. 3, with the winners meeting a week later at a predetermined site for the championship of college football.

This system maintains everything the way it is exactly, creates a pair of incredibly meaningful games that do not currently exist, and does so by adding just one game to the current season. It’s simply the best possible solution to the biggest problem college football faces each year: that potential that a team truly deserving will be left by the side of the road.

So why hasn’t this system been implemented, or, for that matter, even seriously discussed? Because the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten and the Pac-10 have essentially said that this solution is 100 percent unacceptable and, if implemented, they would take their ball – and their bowl – and go home.

You may recall that there was a time when the BCS was called the Bowl Coalition or the Bowl Alliance. That was before the Rose Bowl was part of the mix. The Big Ten and Pac-10 refused to be party to the BCS idea, choosing instead to remain tied to the “Granddaddy of them All,” at the expense even of seeing one of their teams playing for a national championship.

The Rose Bowl means that much to those two conferences, and the Rose Bowl takes its position as THE number one post season game very seriously. To illustrate the point, the Rose Bowl’s television contract with ABC is separate from the other four BCS games, all of which are broadcast by FOX.

Well, the folks in Pasadena are adamant that any further dilution of the stature of the Rose Bowl isn’t worth their time and they will not agree to the “Plus One” scenario for fear that it would give them almost no chance to have a Big Ten vs. Pac-10 match up in their annual game. Think about this: The Rose Bowl hosted the national championship game between two undefeated teams after the 2005 season. Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and USC against Texas and their other-worldly quarterback Vince Young.

They did so reluctantly.

They didn’t dislike a USC-Texas matchup in part because at least one of the teams was from one of their traditional partners – it just wasn’t the ideal. And, the Rose Bowl is really about what’s good for the Rose Bowl and not what’s good for college football as a whole.
The only way around this sticking point would be to give assurances to the Big Ten and Pac-10 that the Rose Bowl would always be a part of the semifinals, with the game always getting a matchup of those league's teams when they qualify in the top four – regardless of where they fall in the standings.

But, you try to sell the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls that the Rose Bowl is more important than the first three and see what that board room looks like. Can you say “food fight?”

This is the only way out within the current system, but the odds of cooler heads prevailing are about the same as athletic departments agreeing to a shortened season so a playoff would be more feasible.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.


06/20/2007 06:34:16 AM

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