Tuesday, July 22, 2003

BCS won't consider playoff

By Josh Dubow
The Associated Press

The committee overseeing changes to college football's Bowl Championship Series won't consider starting a playoff to determine the national champion despite pleas to open up the postseason to more schools.

The BCS Presidential Oversight Committee on Monday directed the six conference commissioners to come up with proposals for changing the BCS without a playoff.

"I'm skeptical a national champion could be determined in a playoff without infringing on a student athlete's welfare," said Penn State president Graham Spanier, a member of the committee.

The panel also said it would meet with representatives from the other five Division I-A conferences Sept. 8 in Chicago to hear their concerns about the current system.

Tulane president Scott Cowen, who is holding a teleconference with 44 other university presidents from non-BCS schools on Tuesday, said the invitation was a positive step.

But he was disappointed that the committee refused to consider a playoff, which the NCAA has in all other divisions and sports and which would improve access for schools from non-power conferences.

"If we're going to have a dialogue, all options have to be open," Cowen said. "If they are eliminating options before the dialogue, then what are we talking about?

"No matter how good we are, we can't get into BCS bowls. The rankings are biased against non-BCS schools."

In 1998, Tulane went undefeated but could only play in the Liberty Bowl because it was ranked 11th in the BCS standings. Teams from non-BCS conferences are guaranteed a bid to one of the four bowl games if they are ranked in the top six.

But in the 20 years before the BCS started, only one school other than Notre Dame that is not currently in those six conferences played in one of the series' four bowls.

"The trend in the BCS is not very different than what existed in the decades before the BCS," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "The only thing that really has changed is we've created a 1 vs. 2 game."

Money is a major issue. The Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange bowls generate more than $100 million a year for the BCS conferences. The BCS gives about $8 million a year to the schools from the other five conferences.

The BCS was formed in 1998 in an effort to match the top two teams in a national title game. The system takes the champions from the six major conferences - Pac-10, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Big East - and two at-large teams to play in the BCS bowls.

The system worked perfectly last season when it paired Ohio State against Miami in the Fiesta Bowl in a matchup of the only undefeated teams - a matchup that couldn't have happened under the old system of conference tie-ins.

"Since we reorganized a little bit to allow for No. 1 vs. No. 2 game, there really has been no change in the schools that would have qualified before and that qualify now," Spanier said.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Harvey Perlman said the commissioners could consider adding a championship game after the four BCS games, as well as adding another game to the system to give schools from smaller conferences a better chance to get into a major bowl game.

The committee also said the Big East would remain a member at least until the current contract ends after the January 2006 bowls despite losing powerhouses Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC.

Delany said the Big East's chances of remaining in the BCS in the next contract depend on how attractive the reconstituted conference would be to television networks.

Also, the Big Ten is not looking to add a 12th team and wouldn't want to start a conference championship game even if an NCAA rule change allowed it for conferences with 10 or 11 teams.

While such a game could generate as much as $12 million for the conference, Delany said the drawbacks outweigh the extra money.

"It makes it much more difficult for your champion to run the table," Delany said. "Then, the loser of the game is 'less interesting' to bowls because it's coming off a loss. Also, fans who made a major trip from their homes to the venue may be less inclined to go to a bowl game. Lastly, it inevitably has a way of diminishing traditional rivalries in a conference."

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