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Notes, Quotes and Slants


Pirate Notebook No. 114
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist

Conflict of interest subverts BCS committee's credibility


Group will resist all-inclusive approach

Last week, the Bowl Championship Series announced the formation of a committee to investigate potential changes to the current system that decides college football's so-called national champion.

Officially, the group's challenge will be to seek methods for improving the BCS and college football as a whole, a statement which, when examined closely, is a textbook example of an oxymoron.

The real motive, although you won't hear it discussed publicly by any of the committee members, will be to identify ways the six BCS leagues can fatten their checkbooks while fending off any erosion of their monopoly by the rest of Division-IA.

No talk of adding Conference USA or the Mountain West to the equation. No consideration of giving the Mid-American Conference a legitimate chance at college football royalty.

The BCS simply can't achieve its goals by extending invitations to join college football's most exclusive country club to conferences it conveniently labels "mid-majors." And as long as the NCAA sits back and maintains its see-no-evil, hear-no-evil attitude, allowing television and six conferences to dictate the allocation of resources in the college game, that will continue to be the case.

Game over. End of story.

The six-member committee, which consists of a school president from each BCS conference, believes it is doing the nation a favor by considering modifications to the current setup, primarily because a playoff is one of the options under heavy investigation. Many BCS critics have long favored a playoff and constantly argue it is the only true barometer for measuring a national champion.

But before fans launch any celebratory parades — rumor has it one is already being planned in West Raleigh — they should consider the additional flaws a playoff could introduce. Bucking the traditional bowl system in favor of any likely playoff scheme that would emerge doesn't solve the real problem in college football — the exclusion of half the country from the title picture before the season even begins.

That has essentially been the case since former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer unveiled his idea of a self-serving cartel five years ago.

Make no mistake, Kramer's creation hasn't failed, rather it has accomplished everything it set out to do, providing fans with an "official" No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup, while issuing each conference at least $11 million annually to be distributed among its members.

It is arguably the most successful monetary pyramid ever conceived in college athletics, with perennial doormats such as Duke and Baylor receiving hefty paychecks without having to earn their keep.

Meanwhile, Louisville, Brigham Young, and Marshall, all of which have produced teams worthy of BCS consideration in recent years and annually contend for their respective conference crowns, receive a far less lucrative payday than the Devils and Bears.

To put it mildly, something is terribly wrong with that picture.

Fairness not on agenda

If N.C. State chancellor Marye Anne Fox — the ACC representative on the committee — and her cronies want to be true visionaries, they will revolutionize college football by ditching the idea being floated of an eight-team playoff, along with the proposal for a national title game to be played after all the bowls have been completed.

Instead of such an arbitrarily unfair shell game, which will still virtually freeze out non-BCS members, they would devise a system that gives each Division I-A school at least a theoretical equal opportunity to earn the brass ring. When you examine the way other college sports are organized, it's actually not all that revolutionary to think about, is it?

Of course, the knee-jerk reaction to such a proposal will be that each school already has a path to college football's gala event as long as it finishes in the Top 6 in the final BCS standings. However, because that poll is weighted so heavily by the opinions of writers and head coaches, who historically show favoritism toward heritage-rich programs, you have to question the legitimacy of Kramer's computer-generated concoction. In fact, the supposed fairness of that BCS argument is completely gutted when the massive financial advantage built into the current system for BCS schools is taken into account.

So what's the solution?

That's a good question, one that doesn't offer a simple answer. Still, there has to be a way college football can offer an all-inclusive approach.

One possibility would be to hold a 16-team playoff, handing out automatic bids to all conferences that meet a set of basic requirements, such as a minimum size of the league, average attendance and academic standards. The remainder of the field could be set by using a selection committee that would issue at-large bids and seed the teams.

Such an idea wouldn't come without consequences, though, as schedules will have to be tightened in order to accommodate the four-week event. And unless non-conference scheduling is factored into the equation for selecting at-large berths, the temptation will exist for traditional heavyweights to load up on cupcakes before entering conference play.

It could also be argued that a playoff would devalue the importance of the regular season because some schools would understandably lack a sense of urgency and wait until tournament time to flex their muscle.

Adding two additional bowls to the current BCS lineup could be another potential solution, with automatic bids going to the conference champions from the Top 8 leagues, which ever they may be. That would satisfy college football purists, who prefer the pageantry and tradition of bowls, as well as the corporate sponsors, who invest heavily to have their name attached to a postseason game.

At this point, anything other than the current alignment that favors a select few would be a refreshing change. If Mrs. Fox is searching for new ideas, perhaps she should consider this:

If it weren't for the ideals embraced by the NCAA basketball tournament, N.C. State wouldn't have made that memorable 1983 run to the national title. No last-second put-back by Lorenzo Charles. No lasting images of coach Jim Valvano searching for someone to hug.

As unlikely a scenario as it may be, the BCS committee needs to seek a system that, at the very least, gives each Division I-A school a legitimate shot at the big bucks and the big glory.

Unfortunately, though, that isn't the committee's mission.

But it should be.

Saint Louis making case

With Marquette, Memphis, Louisville, and Cincinnati all locked into NCAA tournament bids, Saint Louis is on a mission to give C-USA a fifth.

It could happen.

Heading into the C-USA tournament, the 4th-seeded Billikens are one of the nation's hottest teams, having posted seven-consecutive victories. Their RPI (47) is borderline, but could improve that with a win or two in Louisville this week.

Saint Louis has played an excruciatingly tough schedule (11th-best) and boasts marquee victories over four Top 50 foes (Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, and Dayton), all factors the committee takes under heavy consideration.

When you weigh the Billikens' case against others on the bubble — N.C. State, Texas Tech, and Tennessee — you have to like their chances. Hopefully the committee does, too.

Paige emerging

One of Randy Mazey's primary concerns entering the year was the lead-off spot, which was a source of frustration for East Carolina throughout the 2002 season.

After trying several combinations, the Pirates coach may have found the solution.

Left fielder Jamie Paige has been red-hot since securing the everyday lead-off position and was second in batting (.341) entering ECU's game with UNC-Wilmington yesterday. Paige carried an eight-game hitting streak into the Pirates-Seahawks showdown, including a blistering 6-for-11 in his last three contests.

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02/23/2007 01:52:57 AM

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