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Let's turn up volume on talk of college football playoff

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By HUBERT MIZELL, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published November 3, 2002

If it's November, the weather is cooling and it's time I struck a match, trying again to burn the Bad Championship System (BCS). An oversold, overpriced idea that is the biggest cheater in college football.

Two schools, thanks to media and coaching polls, popularity polls and the opinions of selected computer and sports geeks, will wind up in a so-called national championship game.

This season, there are more than a dozen teams that, with a basketball-like tournament, would be legitimate contenders to wind up No. 1. It could be great entertainment.

Don't tell me Iowa would have no chance against Oklahoma or Miami. But the Hawkeyes, because of an early loss to Iowa State, will be eliminated from such a January dream.

BCS creators were commissioners of major conferences who devised a self-serving, shortchanging system that merits the Enron Trophy.

TV networks, which can be naive and stupid, took a big bite of BCS baloney. They would've been wiser to buy the Brooklyn Bridge. What they get for mega-millions is one over-promoted game along with a load of greatly diminished bowls.

The TV brains need to wise up and demand, after years of excitement shortfall: "Hey, you BCS blokes, we must get far more for our money, which means there must be playoffs!"

It may take a monumental public outcry. Perhaps the strongest impetus would be to have Notre Dame fight back from Saturday's loss to finish third in the final BCS rankings. There is no larger, more vocal college sports constituency than backers of the Irish.

Maybe it'll take storming the palace steps. Taking it to Congress. I'd like to see TV and NCAA doors hammered in mass disgust.

What if defending national champion Miami goes unbeaten but is excluded from this season's BCS party? How dumb would that be? If there were a 16-school playoff, it would be only a mild upset if the championship wound up being celebrated by Ohio State, Georgia or Virginia Tech.

Many will be cheated. Robbed by the BCS. My opinion has been shouted before, but I see no reason not to turn up the volume. True college football playoffs would surpass the Final Four and even the Super Bowl as the country's greatest athletic happening.

BCS defenders say they want to protect long-running bowls. A fraudulent cry. Playoffs would be the greatest protection the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Cotton, Gator, Citrus, Outback and a few others could have.

If I were boss of the Outback, Citrus or Gator bowls and I could get a first-round NCAA playoff match rather than some consolation prize between conference also-rans, the champagne would be on me.

They could use 15 bowls. If you're the 16th bowl, you'd still be No. 16, so what's the big deal? It would be such a wonderful leap in interest and impact for bowls Nos. 2 through 15. Is that not a better idea?

Whatever needs to happen to trigger such a move, I'm for it. The BCS bullies must be stopped.

* * *

TONY AND TY: Ten years ago, Dennis Green hired Tony Dungy as defensive coordinator of the Vikings. Minnesota's staff included Tyrone Willingham, who had worked with Green at Stanford.

Green was fired before the end of last season and is a TV commentator. Dungy was granted NFL head-coaching chances with the Bucs and Colts. Willingham returned to Stanford as head coach and now is a first-year Notre Dame coach whose work has been the best anywhere.

Dungy saw potential in 1992. "I'd not been around Ty before, but after just a few weeks of working with the Vikings, I recognized Willingham was the best coach on our staff, including Denny and me.

"He's so even-keeled, so organized, so consistent and so efficient at everything he does. Such a good man. Before long, I got an interview for an NFL head-coaching position. They asked who my offensive coordinator would be. I said Ty Willingham.

"That team immediately cooled (on hiring me). Ty wasn't known to those people. Goes to show, you can't always tell, due to a person's fame or lack of it, who the best coaching choice might be. Stanford knows, as does Notre Dame."

* * *

BLITZES: ESPN has done many creative, entertaining promos, but the "audition" garbage featuring Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler is a major turnoff. ... Remember the powder-blue blazer that was the sideline trademark of Cowboys coach Tom Landry? It had spiritual meaning -- it was a Christmas gift from Rev. Billy Graham. ... Wang ZhiZhi is a quick study. After the Dallas Mavericks, especially assistant coach Donny Nelson, invested in multiple trips to China and greased many palms with NBA cash to spring the kid, Wang played one season and then jumped to the L.A. Clippers for more money. ... Bill Boland, who rode Middleground to a Kentucky Derby win 52 years ago, is 68 and working at a golf course in Palm Coast. ... Joe Paterno was invited to a White House dinner along with many noted Italian-Americans to honor Italy's ambassador. Penn State's coach was seated next to a much younger fellow. "Hi, I'm Joe Paterno," he said, to which the guy replied, "Oh, I know who you are, Coach. My name is Nic Cage." Paterno then asked, "What do you do?" Cage is one of Hollywood's best actors and has won an Oscar.

Whatever happened to Chili Davis?

-- To contact Hubert Mizell, e-mail or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958).

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