NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, January 12, 2007
By Bethany Bradsher
can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em
By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.
The Bowl Championship Series/college playoff
debate has become the Iraq War of the sports world: Everybody has an
opinion; no one can offer a straightforward solution.
Of course, if the college football postseason
picture were easy to quantify, it would rob observers of the complicated
formulas and twisted prognostications that end in theories about who should
be crowned national champion.
Because nothing is simple in this scenario, we
can even craft a clever, nine-step equation elevating East Carolina to the
top of the heap.
For your consideration:
East Carolina beat
North Carolina State.
N.C. State beat
Boston College beat
Virginia Tech beat
Wake Forest beat
Ole Miss beat
Georgia beat Auburn.
Auburn beat Florida.
OK, so everyone probably
can agree on one thing — my utter lack of qualification as a football
theorist. But the truth is, even if the Pirates are several degrees of
separation shy of the title this season, they have plenty in common with a
team that has a fair claim to it.
The Boise State Broncos,
the only undefeated team in the nation, have ridden a steep ascent to the
national stage in the 10 years since they moved up from Division I-AA. Just
five years ago, they finished a strong 8-4 but weren’t even invited to a
It wasn’t until BSU
strung together five consecutive Western Athletic Conference championships
that it became a regular on the bowl scene.
All that is to say that
ECU could be Boise State, the protagonists in a Cinderella tale where the
glass slipper was never found.
For years the big
question about the BCS system, according to Pirates head coach Skip Holtz,
is how a non-BCS school would fare if it played a perfect season. In the
Broncos, ranked No. 6 after stunning Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, the nation
has its answer.
So it would seem that any
non-BCS coach would be discouraged and hollering for a playoff at this
point. But that’s not Holtz’s perspective at all. Perhaps because he has
literally grown up in the shadow of the bowl system, he sees the question in
all of its complexity, and he sees how many schools and players would be
harmed by the dissolution of the current bowl structure.
“If we had a playoff for
six or eight teams, then you take away the bowl games from 50,” he said.
“All of a sudden you talk about 50 teams and 500 young men who don’t get to
experience a bowl game. I think there are a lot of positives and a lot of
rewards in the current system.”
The Papa Johns.com bowl
might not have attracted huge television ratings or national media
attention, but Holtz is now recruiting in the glow of what that bowl bid
meant to the Pirate program. His team, he said, is a testament to the fact
that current system, while far from perfect, is beneficial to programs in a
lot of corners of college football.
“The double-edged sword
that everybody is sitting on is, everybody would like a fair playoff system,
but if you ask 100 people how you would put it together, you would get a
hundred different answers,” he said. “I don’t think a playoff is the answer
unless you can come up with a way to incorporate the current bowl system.”
Holtz acknowledges that
the biggest snare in reforming the system comes from the financial interests
of the BCS conferences and schools, which are bent on protecting the profits
that come from television revenues and other bowl rewards. If the BCS bowls
were just one step in a playoff process and fans had two or three games on
their calendar, the bowls would take a hit.
But the bottom line, for
Holtz, is this: College football is not sick. The excitement of the
postseason, epitomized in the victories of Boise State and Florida, prove
that people care more than ever and that the real tragedy would be if fans
stopped caring enough to carry on the debate.
“I think the sport is
extremely solid right now,” he said. “College football is very exciting.
“When you keep coming
back after you look at all the variables, the system we have is best for
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02/23/2007 01:14:31 AM